Charles Spurgeon: Definitely a Morning Person

My mornings are a groggy, grumpy blur. I need at least two cups of coffee before I can tell whether I’m still dreaming or awake and participating in the real world. A few years ago, I came across a quote from Charles Spurgeon that inspired me to turn my thoughts upward upon waking, setting a trend for the rest of the day.  Spurgeon says (and he doesn’t mention coffee, but I’m sure it is implied):

Wake in the morning and recognize God in your chamber, for his goodness has drawn back the curtain of the night and taken from your eyelids the seal of sleep: put on your garments and perceive the divine care which provides you with raiment from the herb of the field and the sheep of the fold. Go to the breakfast room and bless the God whose bounty has again provided for you a table in the wilderness: go out to business and feel God with you in all the engagements of the day: perpetually remember that you are dwelling in his house when you are toiling for your bread or engaged in merchandise. At length, after a well-spent day, go back to your family and see the Lord in each one of the members of it; own his goodness in preserving life and health; look for his presence at the family altar, making the house to be a very palace wherein king’s children dwell. At last, fall asleep at night as in the embraces of your God or on your Savior’s breast.

Isn’t that great?  Sometimes I write Bible verses or encouraging quotes on my bathroom mirror, but I don’t think my mirror is big enough for this one.  I copied the text into a document, spruced it up, and printed it out to hang in my home.  Even if I don’t have time to stop and read through the whole thing, a phrase or two often catches my eye and leads my heart to contemplate God’s goodness to me, especially in the simple things.   Here’s the JPEG:.

A Resurrection for Charleston

One of my friends posted on Facebook today that she told her kids about the shooting at a church prayer meeting last night in Charleston. Her 4 year-old son asked, “Is God dead, too?” It’s a poignant question. It recognizes that an assault on God’s children is an assault on Him. And maybe it also asks, when something this terrible happens, where is He?

I thought of a story or two from the Bible. I thought of that time God’s son stood outside the tomb of his friend and wept. Jesus was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, He knew that, but He wept anyway. Because death is sad, even when it’s tempered with the hope of resurrection.

And I thought about how God’s son died once. It was the ultimate hate crime. They showed up with swords and clubs at his prayer meeting, too. He was taken away, innocent, and he was murdered. But three days later, he was so alive that his grave burst open, and the earth trembled with glee as he stretched his resurrection body for the first time.

And then he built a Church, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” He made a Body that has walked the earth ever since. Animated by the Holy Spirit, coursing with the blood that bought it, running (sometimes stumbling) toward the eternal prize.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Charleston, you are my brothers and sisters. The whole body of Christ aches with your wound. I will try to love your enemies, and I will pray for those who persecute you. And for you (for us), I pray that the resurrection story becomes the plot line of our lives. That sin and death will be defeated by the sons and daughters of God who follow the lead of our big brother, Jesus. “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself…For to this end, Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” (Romans 14:7,9)

Katherine Heigl Is Lying to You

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To be fair, she is reciting lies that other people wrote.

I watched 27 Dresses, one of the romantic comedies in which she stars, over the 4th of July weekend. This movie genre interests me, because even the most cliched, asinine offering reveals something about how love is being marketed to women. People are paid large sums of money to figure out how to entice us to sit through 90 minutes of fake people with amazing apartments navigating predictable plot lines. Watching romantic comedies to deduce what mythical version of love is being marketed to us is a fun game to play.

Here’s one thing I’ve noticed. Romantic comedies present a set of criteria for evaluating love that can only be attained through longevity, but in the context of the movie, these criteria are met instantly. And this is presented as proof that the lead characters have found true love.

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For example, in a romantic comedy, the female character can tell she’s found the one when her romantic partner:

  • knows her preferences and needs with minimal communication on her part
  • approves/accepts her flaws, typically regards them as “quirky” or “adorable”
  • understands her better than she understands herself and offers meaningful insights into her life (she works too much, she doesn’t stand up for herself, she loves cats but can’t talk to humans, she lets other people’s expectations govern her life, etc.)
  • is able to imagine and execute romantic gestures with perfect accuracy

The coating that makes this implausible pill a little easier to swallow is that sometimes, these qualities do appear in healthy, long-term relationships. People who have been married for years are more aware of each others needs and preferences. Spouses learn over time what kinds of romantic gestures will communicate love. Couples can provide each other with honest, helpful feedback and offer loving correction. The big lie that romantic comedies tell us is that these things can and should happen instantly, when in fact, it takes time to learn how to confront, help, love, and woo someone.

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Since romantic comedies have to sell their stories in one sitting, they find ways to circumvent the role that longevity plays in relationships. To speed things along, the following tropes are often employed:

  • the potential couple gets drunk together
  • the potential couple accidentally sees each other naked
  • the potential couple finds out they share a musical bond
  • the female character makes a big mistake or perpetuates a big lie
    • Interestingly, it’s much less common for a male character to embarrass himself, lose a job, or ruin a relationship and for that incident to become the main catalyst for love in a romantic comedy. If this happens, it has more to do with how the actor is typecast than norms within the genre. For example, failure is a catalyst for love in Adam Sandler’s movies and often for Steve Carell. But in a romantic comedy, the female character’s flaws make romantic relationships more possible, rather than making them more difficult.

Music, drunkenness, nudity, and failure move relationships along at an alarmingly fast rate in romantic comedies. Characters who can’t stand each other go through one of the above experiences and then have an epiphany about their relationship. Instead of enduring the long, boring process of building a friendship through increasing vulnerability, shared experiences, mutual interests, and growing trust, romcom couples accidentally bump into each other in their underwear. Next comes an adorable montage set to an upbeat song, and compatibility, which seemed impossible before, now seems effortless.

But everyone knows these movies aren’t intended to be realistic. We gather our girlfriends, pour some wine, laugh a little, and there’s no harm done as long as we don’t take them seriously. However, it’s all too easy for real women in their real lives to apply the criteria listed above to their real relationships. If you’ve paid any attention to women chatting at coffee shops or offering advice on Facebook, you’ve seen reflections of romcom doctrine in their conversations. There is an expectation that a romantic partner who truly loves us will know what we want with little communication on our part. It’s annoying when a guy doesn’t realize that all of his girlfriend’s flaws are actually attractive. And a man should have an innate sense of what makes a woman feel loved and should not be the least bit clumsy in carrying out gestures that reflect this knowledge. If he falls short, he’s simply not the one. If the couple has to work at compatibility, it isn’t really love. Love should be easy, like popping in a DVD and pouring a glass of wine.

Women who rely on the classic romcom conventions to spark romance or move relationships along are all too common. If you haven’t been the drunk, flirtatious girl at the bar, you’ve seen her and felt sorry for her. Other women seem to be stuck in cycles of failure, looking for a man to rescue them, and some hope that taking their clothes off will help. Outside the imaginary realm of movies, none of these scenarios look romantic. They look terribly sad.

I’m not saying romantic comedies are the sole reason women are dissatisfied with men and ill-equipped to develop better relationships. I don’t think action movies are the reason some men behave violently, either. I do think we should regard movies as a form of modern mythology and realize that as such, they provide inadequate explanations for why life is the way it is. What rings false about romantic comedies is not that they are romantic, but that they present romantic love as attainable with little time, communication, or effort. Women who allow their expectations of relationships to be shaped by these movies or who rely on the conventions they present are as misguided as the ancient Greek girls who sat at the marble feet of Aphrodite, wondering why good men are so hard to find.

The Whole(30) Shebang, Part 2

If you missed part 1, click here to catch up and then read on, my friend.

I began my Whole30 experiment the Monday after I completed the Joplin Memorial Half Marathon.  Since a lot of people experience flu-like symptoms for the first week,  I chose a 30-day period when I wasn’t training for any major races.  Let me tell you, the first ten days were a little rough.

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Whole30, Day 3

At one point, I was shopping at Lowe’s and somewhere within the walls of that store, a.k.a, den of temptation, someone  opened a fresh bag of peanut M & M’s.  The intoxicating scent wafted toward the garden hose section, which you might consider a safe place to hang out during a Whole30.  But no. I had to force myself not to track this person down and ask if I could smell their breath.  It’s a little disturbing in retrospect.  I wouldn’t have considered myself a sugar or junk food addict, but once you determine not to indulge a craving, it becomes surprisingly strong. Basically, I have the brain of a toddler and if something is off limits, I want it RIGHT NOW.

After the first ten days, things got better.  I was in a routine, my cravings calmed down, and I was exploring new recipes with glee.  And ghee. Here are some of the Whole30-approved dishes I enjoyed this month (and remembered to Instagram)…

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The only disappointment I had was that running was difficult for most of the month.   I think this was partly due to the onset of summer temperatures, to which I do not easily adjust.  Some people report being able to exercise like Olympic athletes during their Whole30. I found that while my energy levels were consistent throughout the day, I had decreased stamina for exercise.  Toward the end of the month, I felt stronger and ended up achieving a new 5K PR on the last day of my Whole30!

Here I am, owning the finish line at the Walgreens 5K!

Here I am, owning the finish line at the Walgreens 5K!

The Benefits 

I kept a list of the benefits and positive changes I noticed over the course of my Whole30, which I’ve typed up below:

  • It’s easy to fall asleep, and I am getting 8 hours or more of sleep most nights (unless I stay up too late reading)
  • I’m not tired in the afternoons at work
  • Little to no indigestion or tummy bloating
  • I’m realizing that a cup of herbal tea or decaf coffee after a meal satisfies my dessert cravings 9 times out of 10
  • Bread and dairy are not a big deal to me – but chocolate and wine are a different story
  • I’m eating 5, 6, or 7 different vegetables every DAY
  • I feel like my brain is in control of my nutrition, not my stomach, which is kind of empowering
  • My nails are getting stronger (less flaky) and my hair is shiny
  • Patches of dry skin on my face are gone
  • Belts are loose…actually, most are too loose even on the tightest notch
  • Fruit tastes very sweet and veggies have more flavor than I previously thought. Peppers are like whoa.
  • More aware of how snacking relates to boredom and stress.  Since I don’t have snack foods around, I can’t reach for them to deal with either of those things, so I have to consider whether I am hungry or not. Usually, I’m not.
  • Looked in the mirror and thought, “Nice job on the bronzer today, Lynn.” Then, I realized I wasn’t wearing any bronzer. Natural glow for the win!
  • My brother says I look taller – I don’t think I am, but I really want to be!
  • Realized today that the foods I am missing are associated with comfort rituals: a glass of wine after a long day, a bowl of popcorn on the weekend, chocolate chips, etc. They aren’t associated with nutritional needs, which I think means I’m getting all my macronutrients. I just miss those routines.
  • I’ve been feeling full but not “heavy” after meals, which is cool
  • Tried on pants that have been too snug for at least 5 years and they are now too loose – don’t know why I’ve held onto ill-fitting pants for five years, but oh well!

The Whole30 was a positive, helpful experiment for me.  The way I’ve learned to think about health (and separate it from weight, body fat %, or pant size) was the best part.  I also learned a lot about my cravings and food habits, took time to examine them, and am going forward with increased knowledge and new habits that will be beneficial.  To me, that’s a lot to gain from a month of skipping out on a few foods!  I didn’t measure inches or take before/after pictures, and I am staying away from that ol’ bathroom scale for a little while, but my loose belts and baggy pants tell me there were physical benefits, too.  I’m in a frame of mind right now where I value what I learned over what I lost, though.

Would I recommend it? NO WAY! (And Yes)

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Food is a touchy subject.  You may have noticed this.  When I told my friends about starting a Whole30, most responded with, “Oh, I can’t do that because I would miss ______.”  This surprised me because, in talking about the program, I had not meant to suggest that they should do it, too.  I think women feel a pressure to always be doing something about our weight/health/fitness.   Like we have to justify the fact that we don’t look like fitness models, and if anyone appears to be taking a tiny step in that direction, we have to explain why we’re lagging behind.  I hate that pressure. I hate the tones of “not enough” that it carries.  I stopped talking about Whole30 as much unless someone asked about it, because I didn’t want to add a milligram to the pressure women feel to get as close to perfection as possible.

So no, I would not recommend the Whole30 to anyone.  I wouldn’t start a conversation with, “You should totally try the Whole30…” because I think offering unsolicited diet or excise advice is kinda rude. It implies that there is something wrong with the other person, and that the problem is so obvious or severe, you’re not even going to wait until they ask for help.

If someone was interested in doing a Whole30 and asked about my experience, I would tell them it takes a lot of time to plan, prep, and cook.  I would point out that it’s more expensive than a diet that includes grain and legume staples. (I averaged a 20% increase in the cost of groceries each week, and I didn’t even buy organic stuff unless it was on sale.)   If you go to restaurants, you will feel kind of freakish for bringing your own salad dressing and asking a million questions about the chicken marinade.  I would also acknowledge that it just doesn’t sound like fun to everyone.  For people with picky eaters in their families, limited time, or very tight budgets, it would be a hard month.  On the other hand, if this fits in with a person’s health goals, could possibly alleviate health problems he or she is experiencing, or just piques their curiousity, I would say – sure, go for it!  And I might point folks to the following helpful websites:

  • Melissa Joulwan wrote two incredible Paleo cookbooks with several Whole30-compliant recipes, and she blogs over here.  She has a lot of Whole30 tips and recipes, and even offers meals plans and food prep guides to simplify things.  Start here for Whole30 help and click around to your heart’s content.
  • Michelle Tam blogs at Nom Nom Paleo and is also very Whole30 friendly.  She’s got a round-up of Whole30 recipes here and shares about her Whole30 experiences on the blog.   Plus she knows how to make tasty meat dishes in the crockpot.
  • Holly has completed a few Whole30s and eats paleo most of the time. She has compiled a great list of her recipes here.
  • And lastly, although this wasn’t a concern for my Whole30, people with little ones might appreciate the recipes and tips at Paleo Parents and The Paleo Mom.

What’s Next?

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So now that I’ve completed my Whole30, what’s next?  Do I feel as free as a rambunctious young nun in the Austrian countryside? Not quite, but it is a relief to have the Whole30 restrictions lifted and to start reintroducing foods and observing their effects.  After Whole30,  you’re encouraged to evaluate which foods are helpful, which ones may not be helpful but are worth whatever drawbacks are incurred, and which you might be better off avoiding.  Every person makes these decisions for themselves.  I like these criteria because they acknowledge that food is both beneficial and enjoyable (and that the enjoyment factor should be considered).

I don’t have any reactions to legumes, gluten, or dairy that would lead me to cut them out permanently.  I have noticed that when I don’t eat much dairy, I have fewer sore throat/runny nose issues and my lymph nodes don’t swell up.  (But ice cream, you are worth it, for the record.)  Legumes are all good with me except soy sauce makes me look like I swallowed a beach ball.  (Still dousing my sushi in that stuff, no one try to stop me.) And gluten is delicious but also makes me want to take a very long nap at my desk.  (Which is not a bad idea after you eat a giant burrito at a Mexican restaurant with your co-workers.) Also, there is a reason that chocolate and wine are the first things you see when you walk into Aldi. Those items are regaining their rightful place in my shopping cart.

All that to say, I’m not adopting a set of hard and fast food rules.  I don’t want to live that way or have to think about food that much.  I’ve learned more about what is beneficial to me and what will help fuel my body to accomplish some of the big goals I have this year.  I’ve adopted a broader view of health (that doesn’t rely on the scale) and have a more positive view of the health goals I’ve already accomplished, along with confidence that I’m ready for the challenges ahead. Bass Pro Marathon, I’m talking to you.

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The Whole(30) Shebang, Part 1

Yesterday, I successfully completed my first Whole30 – wahoo!  Bring on the chocolate and wine!  In moderation!  A couple friends asked me to blog about my Whole30 experience, and since I wanted to document what I learned anyway, I was happy to oblige.

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Rules Shmules

First, a few thoughts on food rules.  I heard about the Whole30 years ago but resisted trying one because so much of the language on the website refers to food as being “good” and “clean.” To me, those labels harken back to Old Testament days, when certain foods were not permissible for God’s people to eat.  Their food rules were part of how the Jews distinguished themselves from other ethnic groups.  And not to point fingers, but I think they might have been a little smug about it.  After Peter had a carnivorous vision (three times) in Acts 10, we learned that God’s people are to regard all food as clean, and He does not intend food to be a wall that we erect to distinguish “us” from “them.”

So the idea of “clean” or “unclean” eating gets under my skin a little because those are throwback terms that ignore the fact that God has released us from thinking of food as something that can purify or impurify us.  And I’ve mostly steered clear of food philosophies that rely on those terms.  I became more interested in the Whole30, however, when I heard a couple friends talking about the benefits they experienced. People reported feeling energetic, beating sugar addiction, enjoying their food more, and finding new stamina for exercise.  I definitely didn’t want to adopt a set of food rules that smacked of gastro-superiority, but I wondered if there could be benefits to this program that were accessible even if you didn’t buy the whole paleo/evolutionary biology/clean food package.

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So Why Whole30?

I started reading articles on the Whole30 website and found more to like than to dislike in their food philosophy.  Eventually, I bought It Starts With Food for my iPad, too.  I learned that while eating organic, unprocessed foods (a.k.a “clean food”) was encouraged, it wasn’t forced, especially on people who don’t want to allocate amounts equal to the GDP of small nations for their food budget. I found information on blood sugar, hormones, and digestion that made sense of some of my food reactions and eating habits.  The top three factors that attracted me to the program were:

  1. No weighing – of yourself or your food
  2. LOTS of veggies, protein, and fat
  3. After the ultra-strict 30 days, freedom to choose how you use what you’ve learned (rather than a one-size fits all approach)

Moving backwards through my top three, I was attracted to the idea of doing a strict, controlled experiment for 30 days and then applying what I learned from my research at my own discretion.  A lot of nutritional advice is cookie-cutter and when you apply it and don’t see any benefits, you feel like a failure.  Or at least, I do. Whole30 is quite restrictive, because in any experiment, the more factors you control, the more reliable the results.  The point is to learn how YOUR body works, not how some expert says every human body works, like we’re just a giant fleet of Honda Accords.  You spend 30 days restricting your diet to the foods that pack the most nutritional punch and create the fewest problems so that hormones and blood sugar balance (or begin to balance) and any digestive issues improve.  After that, you reintroduce the once-restricted foods and apply the data you collect in whatever manner seems best to you. Here’s a basic chart showing what the Whole30 program says to eat/avoid, in case you’re not familiar with the Whole30:

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So I started a Whole30 Pinterest board and begin tucking away ideas, just in case I decided to do this thing.  As I looked at Whole30 blogs and recipes, what stood out to me wasn’t all the meat and fat (there wasn’t THAT much meat, and I was expecting a plethora of avocados). What stood out to me was how many vegetables were on people’s menus and the interesting ways people cooked them.  Zoodles.  Cauliflower rice.  A squash that looks like spaghetti.  Carrot shavings, and kale-as-not-a-garnish, and mashed veggies-I-thought-you-didn’t-mash.  Plus, there were lots of ethnic dishes,  combinations of spices that sounded delicious, and sauces and dressings galore.  Everything looked fresh and delicious.  I could almost smell the coconut milk curries simmering through my iPad screen.

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No one was trying to convince me that 60 calorie cardboard pizzas were filling and awesome and that I’d want to put on a tank top and ride a bike 100 miles afterwards.  No one was even talking about calories.   Or carbs or fat or grams of anything.  There was lots of information about what micronutrients are and how they help us and affect us, but this Whole30 thing didn’t want me to count anything except days.

Ummm…were they giving me permission to think about health in terms of something other than my WEIGHT?  

Yup.  You’re not allowed to weigh yourself  on Whole30.  In It Starts with Food, Dallas and Melissa discuss our country’s obsession with weight and why it is an unreliable measure of health.  So unreliable that most people don’t need to track it, and you certainly don’t need to evaluate your success or failure based on that number.  The scale is forbidden during Whole30 mostly to help you tune in to other health factors.  How are you sleeping? What are your energy levels like? How about moods? How do your skin, hair, and nails look? How is your exercise routine being affected?  Having any heartburn or indigestion?

No-Scale

Starting to think about health this way, as something that can’t be measured on a bathroom scale, was huge for me.   What if being healthy meant eating mostly nutritious things, enjoying the other stuff when I decide it’s worth it, and having energy and strength to run and spin and Zumba and lift and garden and everything else I like to do?  This sounded like measuring health by quality of life, and it made sense.  The fact that it was such a breath of fresh air revealed how focused I had become on reaching a certain weight or body fat percentage or clothing size.

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I’ll save the rest for tomorrow – what I learned, the benefits I experienced, how I’m applying my knowledge! Plus, I’ll mention wine and chocolate a few too many times.  Again.

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5 Things I Would Tell New Runners

motivation-start-run-1In October 2012, I started a run/walk class called “Anyone Can Run” at my local YMCA.  I joked that if I completed the training, they’d have to rename the class, “No Really… ANYONE Can Run.” Eight weeks later, I ran my first 5K. Since then, I’ve trotted my way through a few more 5Ks, some relay races, and a half-marathon. This year, I have big goals – run two more half-marathons and complete my first full marathon. Even typing those words sends little thrills of nervousness and excitement through me! I registered for the Bass Pro Conservation Marathon yesterday, and that got me thinking about the first running goal I ever set and what I would share with someone – especially a non-athletic person like me – who is brand new to running. Here are five lessons I would pass along:

1.  It’s a discipline before it’s a delight.
When I first started running, it required a lot of self-discipline. I willed myself out the door to run for 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes. It felt like (and was) an enormous effort. In contrast, very few of my runs today require the kind of discipline and willpower it took to start a running habit. Honestly, most of them are a delight. I look forward to seeing my running buddies, conquering hills, working up a good cleansing sweat, and feeling the rush of endorphins and quiet satisfaction at the end of a tough run. In the beginning, those benefits were overshadowed by how difficult running was for me. If that’s you, keep pushing.  Most skills we master are difficult before they are fun, and running falls into that category. Don’t give up before you get to the fun part!

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One of the fun parts – The Glow Run 5k!

2.  Energy and fatigue come in cycles.
This was something I realized when training for my first half marathon. I would get tired two miles in and think, “Holy crap! I’ve got seven miles left and I’m already exhausted! Will I even survive?!?” But I told myself to keep going (partly because I had to make it back to my car), and out of nowhere, a burst of energy would come and I’d feel renewed. This happened over and over on those long runs. I got to where I could predict the exact miles when I’d feel tired and when the next burst of energy would come. There is a point of exhaustion when your legs simply refuse to move anymore, that’s true. But most of us on most of our runs, do not reach that point. If you get tired, calm down, slow down, and tuck in until the next burst of energy comes. Be patient. It’s on its way.

3.  Buy real running shoes and a running outfit that makes you feel awesome.
As you shuffle along during those first, tough months of running, good shoes will prevent many injuries to your body, and a cool running outfit will prevent injuries to your pride. Plus, if you look like a runner, that will go a long way toward making you feel like a runner. And when you feel like a runner, you begin setting goals instead of limits. If a trip to the local running store can accomplish all that, it’s worth every penny, right?

Blanche and Dorothy get this. Try to look as awesome as they do.

Blanche and Dorothy get it. When you look awesome, you feel awesome.

4.  Running will teach you to cheer for yourself. Try to embrace this lesson.
There is a lot of negativity in the world, and I would venture to say that for most of us, it’s easier to criticize than encourage ourselves. I learned pretty quickly that negative self-talk would get me nowhere in running. Telling myself I ‘m weak or I need to suck it up is not nearly as powerful as telling myself I am strong and I can do it. Actually, one time (maybe the heat was getting to me?), I told myself I was an elegant racehorse. If you’re not used to treating yourself nicely, filling your mind with positive affirmations feels awkward at first. But running exhausts your mind as much as it does your body. I need mental fuel to accomplish my running goals, and positive affirmation is like a cool drink of water or a Cliff gel to my brain. Plus, every time you finish a run, you prove yourself right. You ARE strong. You CAN do it. You DO slightly resemble an elegant racehorse (or at least you have a ponytail). If cheering for yourself is still hard, ask yourself this, if you saw another runner struggling up a hill, would you cheer her on? Why not offer yourself the same courtesy?

If you can't cheer for yourself, recruit Ryan Gosling.

If you can’t cheer for yourself, recruit Ryan Gosling.

5.  There are awards at races, and we all admire fast people, but there is no hierarchy in running.
When I showed up for the first night of “Anyone Can Run” at the YMCA, I was nervous. Like on-the-verge-of-throwing-up nervous.  I was so intimidated, and like a lot of new, non-athletic runners, I was facing down years of believing I didn’t belong with sporty people and didn’t have what it took to accomplish any athletic feat. This was so firmly established in my brain as “fact” that I assumed everyone else thought the same thing about me. I was surprised, relieved, and encouraged to learn that the running community doesn’t think that way at all, about anyone.  Anyone who is making the effort has our respect, and that includes beginners. Especially beginners. They’re doing the hardest part, and we all remember what that feels like.

The medal from my first half-marathon

The medal from my first half-marathon

Although I’m nervous about training for a marathon and the difficulties ahead, I’m also excited for a new challenge. I’m excited to be a beginner again and venture into unknown territory. What does it feel like to run 14 miles? 18 miles? 26 miles? By November, hopefully, I will know. In the meantime, when I think about the grueling training that lies ahead and start to feel afraid, I keep telling myself that I’ve conquered this fear before. After I ran a 5k, I thought, how in the world does anyone run TWICE this far? After I ran a 10k, I thought, how in the world does anyone run twice this far? After I ran a half-marathon, once again I thought, how in the world does anyone run twice this far? I hope to answer that question one more time and conquer that same old fear this fall.

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The Impact of Protestant Missionaries on Democracy

Areas where Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations.

From this article, the cover story for February’s edition of Christianity Today