Defining Moments

Our children can teach us life lessons if we’re willing to receive. The challenges they encounter become defining moments in their lives. Ethan teaches me lessons daily, and at Future Stars Nationals, after a tough gymnastics meet, he taught me that disappointment is OK, but it’s necessary to take “failure” and grow, not dwell on it.

dsc_0286-e1510687561650.jpgHe achieved Top 20 in the country for 10-year-old gymnasts, which is a massive feat, but it wasn’t his goal. His goal was to make the National Team.

Failure defines our character, and this past weekend, I saw my 10-year-old son hold his head high, be proud of his accomplishments, and spark a fire in himself, which will drive him through this next meet season. Though I noticed disappointment in his face after missing the National Team, he chose to take that setback to propel himself forward to the next level. He didn’t make excuses or play the comparison game; he didn’t blame anyone else.

He loves competing against the best of the best. He thrives off challenges. He relishes being pushed to grow and flourish. He is devoted to building relationships with other gymnasts. He came out of “failure” stronger and more motivated than ever. Failure is necessary to succeed, but becoming defeated is optional. Failure defines our character.

I learn from this boy every day. This weekend was a defining moment in his life. He chose maturity. He chose strength. He chose growth. Likewise, I choose to allow God to use my children to teach me in my defining moments. Today, choose to turn a setback into your comeback!

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Follow Your Calling

Are you choosing to follow your calling? Are you choosing to take steps toward it? What has God placed on your heart to do? What stirs you up on the inside? What moves you? Choose not to let the devil talk you out of it. Choose to stop him in his tracks. Choose to embrace your calling and move forward. Choose to trust. Choose purpose.

“When you stand before God, you’ll not be judged according to what you did, but according to what you were called to do.” — John Bevere

Stop It Right Now!

Stop it. We need to stop it right now. We need to stop the hateful actions, the judging mouths, and the comparing minds. These things are divisive and the direct opposite of what it means to love. You want more love? Stop it then. You call for love but destroy property, beat up others, and shut down highways. Stop it. You call for love but post slanderous messages on social media, judge someone’s heart through your eyes, insist they are out to get you because they don’t think like you. Stop it. You call for love but can’t help comparing how much better you are than the person next to you because you think you’re smarter, better looking, or more successful. Stop it! Stop it right now.

The hateful actions are teaching our children that it’s OK to act out, whine, and complain anytime they don’t get their way. That is what is happening with all the riots and destruction of property. We adults have succumbed to the tactics of children with outbursts and tantrums taken to the extreme. usa-flagProtests about civil freedoms done in a mostly peaceable manner with the right motive are different. Demonstrations are sometimes necessary to be heard. But this is far from that. This is an outburst that is meant to divide, and Satan sits back and laughs because he doesn’t even have to do the work himself. We’re doing it for him. Stop it!

Judging mouths send the message that if I don’t agree with your ideology, then I’m a bad person. We are the “melting pot” which is what makes America so great. We are free to have different ideas and beliefs – or we should be. That’s what diversity is. We have to be OK with someone not agreeing with us. Intolerance comes from those who think someone’s unloving if he or she don’t agree with them. Social media has given us a way to depersonalize others and bully them from a distance. We say things we would never say if the person were standing in front of us. We beat each other up with written banter and think we’re doing the other person a favor. Well, we’re not. We call for laws against bullying in schools yet succumb to the same thing online with each other. Rather than posting judgmental messages, we should get to know the hearts of those who are different from us because, if we did, we’d realize we have more similarities than differences. I think there are individuals who may want to destroy America, but neither political ideology directly aims to do that. I have to believe that all parties aim to create a better America for you and me. I believe we are all trying to better our families’ lives. We just have different ways of seeing what that would look like. Everyone has a story, and until we see past skin color, gender, and ideology, we’ll never uncover it. The next time you start judging, try putting yourself in their shoes and seeing what they see. They may not be as bad as you think they are. There should never be an “us” and a “them”. We are all Americans. Stop it!

Comparing minds focus on the negative either within us or in others.We are all created in the likeness of God. No one person is better than another, so why do we succumb to comparing each other? We compare our career choices, our parenting, our political stances, or our social statuses. We start seeing ourselves as better in our own minds – OR – we start comparing someone’s best to our worst and begin a downward spiral. The comparison game is a dangerous thing and can take us down a dark path if we’re not careful. Stop it!

Love does not come out of hateful actions, judging mouths, or comparing minds. Love doesn’t mean we have to sit on the sidelines. Sometimes love is tough, sharing truth with the right heart, but love is never vicious.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

What if we stopped acting out, judging, and comparing? What if, instead, we stepped out of our comfort zones and helped someone in need, asked questions to get to know someone’s heart, or complimented someone on a victory.  If we did these things, there’d be more love, no doubt about it. We’d forget our differences and build a stronger America. Together. As one. So stop it, and start truly loving.

The Downhill is Worth the Climb

20160418_180804Have you ever had the feeling of doing something incredible? That’s exactly how I felt crossing the finish line of Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn., with a BQ (Boston Qualifying Time) — incredible. Today I had the opportunity to actually get the chance to fulfill a long-time dream of running the Boston Marathon. It’s a first for me. I can cross it off my dreams list. There’s an amazing feeling when you accomplish a dream you’ve worked so hard to attain. I wish everyone could experience that rush of happy emotion. I wish everyone could experience something great. There are seeds of greatness inside all of us, but it’s sad that most never let them grow and flourish. I didn’t want that to be me.

There was so much anticipation the days leading up to the big race. I had a plethora of emotions — excitement, nervousness, pride — a sense of accomplishment knowing the hours of hard work it took to qualify to be here. I did it for anyone who forgot how to dream big dreams. I did it for my country as my way to show patriotism, Boston runs together, Boston strong! I did it to be an example for my kids so they can dream and achieve larger than life goals. But I mostly did it for me to prove to myself that I am worth it and that I have something to offer to others.

20160418_070322It was hours of waiting to start. I was up early to get ready, then we took the shuttle to the airport to get on the Blue Line T to get on the Green Line T to get to the Boston Commons where I would take a bus to the starting village — only to wait another hour before we could go to the actual start line where we would find our corrals and wait for the gun. It was HOT! Coming off my Minnesota winter training into 60s and sunny proved difficult. Keeping hydrated throughout the race was key.

The race was awesome and terrible all at the same time. My first half proved strong with sub-8-minute miles, and a goal of a PR (personal record) seemed in reach. However, the second half told a different story. My IT Band flared up, and my foot pain did as well, both things I had been fighting throughout my training. I tried to shake it off, but my IT Band was hurting enough that turning over my legs became harder and harder. Eventually it forced me to slow down even though my lungs and heart told me to keep going fast. When I realized I couldn’t make a PR and also couldn’t hit another qualifying time, I decided to slow even more to ensure a finish without further injury.

20160417_132324The race course is hard, but I was determined to just run my race and not think about that. Were there hills? I didn’t notice them in the beginning, but I sure enjoyed those downhills! Sometimes in life it’s hard to push through the hills, but it’s always worth it to get to the downhill. Even Heartbreak Hill wasn’t as bad as everyone made it out to be. It was at a tough spot between miles 20 and 21, but it didn’t make or break the race. I did walk some of it because of my leg pain, but I didn’t sweat it. I just kept going.
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I teared up quite a few times along the way, some from the pain, but mostly thinking about what it took to get here. It was a surreal feeling that I wanted to make last. I wanted to enjoy each and every moment. I teared up thinking about the fact that many try to qualify but not many will. I was among the elites of runners. I teared up thinking about the fact that 50 years ago women weren’t allowed to run the race. I teared up thinking about how Bobbi Gibbs must have felt 50 years ago when she snuck into the race and ran unofficially to prove women could run 26.2 miles. I teared up as I passed by Patrick Downes who ran on his prosthetic leg after losing his leg in the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon finish line three years ago. I teared up as I looked up at the historic buildings. I teared up as I passed runners on stretchers from the heat, and I prayed for each one as I ran by. I teared up because of the pain. I teared up knowing I missed my goal. I teared up thinking about making it to the finish. I teared up after I crossed the finish with mixed emotions of pride and fighting feeling like a failure. I would have failed if I quit — but I finished.

Am I disappointed? It would be a lie if I said no. Yes, I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed that I didn’t hit my goal and that my injury held me back. But am I proud? Yes. I’m proud that I finished despite the pain when many may have chosen to quit. I’m proud to have soaked up all the moments along the way, all the cheering, all the signs, all the sights. I’m proud to have run this sought after race. I’m proud of the hard work it took for me to get here at all. So, yes, there is some disappointment, but only because I’m a winner, and I always want to know I did all that I could. I strive to be better. I’m proud that I started, I stayed steady, and I didn’t quit.

Will there be another marathon? Well, I didn’t hit my goal, so I think you can answer that question.  I need to heal. I need to take time to fully recover. I am running Twin Cities Marathon with a goal of pacing my aunt to qualify for Boston, but then it’s just a matter of when and where. But you better believe that I am determined to make this new goal and dream a reality. Do you have a goal? Now’s your time to dream big dreams and make them happen. Don’t waste your days. Turn them into moments. Soak them up. Go get your dream, climb your hill and find the downhill. It’s always worth it!

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JUST FINISH

FINISH. That is my word for 2016. I have always been good at starting – that is not the issue. I start projects all the time. I’m always overly excited and in anticipation of the final product. Go big or go home, right? I have grandiose ideas and am creative. I’m ambitious, driven and have a good work ethic – but I’m a horrible finisher. It starts as a great idea, but that’s about as far as it normally goes.

This year is my year to finish. God has placed something on my heart, and I know I need to see it to completion. I see it as an obedience factor. If I decide to stop before completion, I’m being disobedient to my call and, in turn, telling God I don’t trust HIS plan or HIM! How crazy is that!?FINISH

If God calls us to do something, it’s going to be hard. It’s going to stretch us, and we probably won’t be able to do it on our own. But He calls us to it for a reason, and we will grow and change in the process. He doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called – we just have to answer that call. He WILL give us more than we can handle so we HAVE to trust and rely on Him. His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. They are so much more expansive than we can imagine. But we also will never know the goodness and the blessings if we don’t latch on to His plan and see our calling to completion.

Everything changes when we decide to finish. Don’t give in. Don’t give up. Finish strong. It’s always worth it. “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phillipians 3:14).

2016 is the year to FINISH. What are you called to finish this year?

Fallen But Never Forgotten

It’s been 14 years since I began my senior year of high school, and it’s also been 14 years since one of the most traumatic national events in my lifetime – September 11, 2001.

I still remember that day very well. I was in the locker commons laughing and talking with friends when we saw the coverage on the TV of the first plane crashing into the Twin Towers. It was a surreal moment, and I don’t think I really understood what the repercussions of the terrorist attacks truly were. Looking back I realize that I had such a limited view on the world and so much still to learn.

It’s been 14 years since I had the privilege of going to New York City and serving only weeks after the tragedy. I was there to share hope with the hopeless and joy with the depressed and strength with the weak. What a learning experience and a defining time in my life.

I still remember the somber feeling being at Ground Zero overlooking the hole of dirt and ashes where two prominent buildings were no longer standing. I still remember passing by the fire stations and seeing the array of flowers and cards followed by the pictures of firefighters who gave their lives trying to save others. It was breathtaking and gut wrenching.

Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote shortly after being in New York that was published in the Anoka County Union. It will bring to light some of the emotion that I saw and felt while there just after the attack:

“As I got off the subway at Ground Zero, a distinct stench from the ruins overwhelmed me. This smell I will never forget as well as the faces of many. The expressions on the policemen’s and the firefighters’ faces will forever be imprinted in my mind. The usually busy and loud city is silent at Ground Zero and full of melancholy. Everyone just stares in awe at the rubble where the two tallest World Trade Center buildings once stood. The dust-covered walls of nearby buildings are blanketed with poems and messages dedicated to loved ones who lost their lives in the recent tragedy. The thousands of posters with piercing images of missing loved ones only made me realize even more the reality of the tragedy.

“I noticed in many cases a mask initially covers the pain. But as I started up conversations with people and showed sincerity, compassion and understanding, that mask covering their emotions lifted, and they longed to have their stories heard and their hearts consoled …

 “So here we are in Anoka, where the events of Sept. 11 seem distant in space and time from our everyday lives. We can’t fully comprehend the discomfort and longing they have for everything to be the same as it once was, but being there, I was able to grasp how much people just want to have someone listen to them. They want someone to offer hope for their grief, anger, depression and fear. Hope that there is a God who knows their pain. Hope that there is a God who loves them and wants to have a relationship with them.

“You’ve heard the Sept. 11 story of New York on television. What I saw was the story within that story, a story of hope instead of fear.”

In the midst of the tragedy, we still serve a big God who flooded the streets with love and hope. We came together to help each other out and relied on each other to get through the pain.

Those who sacrificed their lives protecting others they didn’t even know is symbolic of Jesus sacrificing His life to save me – at that time a stranger to Him. There’s a message of hope in the midst of tragedy. I only wish as a nation we could get back to that place where we step up and take care of each other. More tragedies will come – that’s life – but if we don’t figure out how to work together and unite now, then the next tragedy may not have hope attached to it, and our nation may not have the ability to recover. Division is a tool of the devil to keep us from a stronger purpose. We cannot allow him to have a stronghold on our lives.

Today, remember the brave who went before you and sacrificed for those they didn’t even know. Today, be thankful for the small challenges because they make us stronger. Today, step out in faith and serve someone you don’t know. In turn, you will feel blessed and full of hope for the future. Together we are strong. Together there is greatness ahead. The Twin Towers may have fallen, but they will never go forgotten.

Walking in Love,

Gabe

9-11 Article

Running a Good Race

Twin Cities Marathon 2010 009Motherhood is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. I ran my first marathon 5 years ago this fall. In the midst of training for the Twin Cities Marathon, I started to compare running to my journey as a mom, and now, 5 years and four marathons later, I still see the correlation.

I have learned that I can train as hard as I want, but I will never fully be prepared. How can you prepare for the unexpected?  I can study the terrain, but there’s always going to be that bump in the road that I didn’t see on paper. And it may get simpler with each race – I may have more clarity with each race – but the journey to the finish line is never the same.

Thinking back to 5 years ago, what did I do to prepare for my first 26.2 mile race? I associated with runners who have already been there who could give me words of encouragement and advice. I followed the game plan to build my endurance – the payoff? I finished. Did I finish perfect? No, but I finished strong.

The same thing goes for parenting. As mothers, we need the association of moms whom we see as positive role models who have already been there. They’ve traveled that road and paved the way. They can train us, teach us, and give us a game plan for success.

We also need the association of moms who are in the same season as we are. They know exactly what we are going through at each stage because they’re going through the same things. They can give us a shoulder to cry on, make us laugh, or encourage us to keep going. They will become our best friends. A shared experience always brings people together.

When I crossed the starting line of the Twin Cities Marathon, I was engulfed with many emotions: fear, nervousness, excitement, joy, and a sense of accomplishment.

The first couple of miles seemed easy — The same happened when I became a mom. The first few weeks I enjoyed the honeymoon stage of motherhood. I was so in awe of my precious gift that I saw no flaws and thought that the road would be simple.

Around mile 5 or 6, it started feeling mundane. It started sinking in that I still had a long way ahead of me. However, the crowds of people cheering me on made it fun – In the same way, after weeks and months of tending to baby’s every needs, I began to feel like I was in a rut. It seemed like the same routine day in and day out. I was tired from a lack of sleep and feeling like I didn’t have time for me anymore. But then a mom would say a word of encouragement, or my beautiful baby would giggle, and my joy would be renewed.

By mile 13, the halfway point, I realized running a marathon was a huge commitment. I started seeing the endurance and toughness that it takes to go on – being a mom is no different. I started to feel challenged by my boy’s tantrums or stubbornness. I saw that I needed to be emotionally tough to handle challenges that being a mom brings. If I don’t know my purpose, I can stress and feel like a failure.Twin Cities Marathon 2010 001

By mile 18, I started questioning my ability to go on. Negative thoughts started creeping in. I began playing the comparison
game with all the other runners who seemed unaffected by the pain. I started to think I wasn’t strong enough to be a marathoner — There are times when I question my ability to be an effective mom as well. Sometimes I compare myself to the mom who looks like she has everything put together – she appears well rested and fashionably dressed with makeup on and well-behaved kids right by her side. But then I have to step back and realize it’s not fair to me to compare someone’s best with my worst. And then a little voice softly whispers, “I love you mom,” and it melts my heart.

By mile 23, I started to breathe a little easier. I knew the pain was temporary now. I started to believe in myself and could see the end – I think we all have those days where we breathe a sigh of relief or a little prayer of thanks when a stage our children are in comes to a close.

At mile 25, the adrenaline took over, and I began to sprint with a smile on my face. I was thrilled that it was almost over, that I was about to accomplish something great. I crossed the finish line at the State Capitol with tears streaming down my face knowing my hard work paid off – There’s always a finish line.

I know a mother’s job is never done, but there is a point of victory at every stage of the journey. It’s the little rewards: their first steps, their first word, their first A on a report card, their starting spot in the basketball game. The ups and downs are all worth it knowing you’ve done all you can to raise your children to be men and women of strong character. I see the finish line as all the “I love you’s” and “thank you’s” and hugs and kisses that you get along the way, but ultimately, the finish line is letting them go to affect others the same way you affected them.

I think of Paul in Philippians when he says, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

You’re in the race of your life as a mother. Stay on the course and finish strong. It’s always worth it!

Walking in Love,

Gabe