Boston Strong

boston-strong-run

Well life continues to get more exciting for this mother runner. Grady turned 2 this past week and is talking more and more. The other morning he asked, “Where my puppies?”

“The puppies are outside, Grady,” I said.

Grady paused and then asked, “Where my baby?”

“Oh, Han is your baby now?” I laughed. Kids say the darndest things, right?

Han is 12 weeks old today and getting cuter by the second. He is sleeping through the night regularly, which makes for a very happy mama!

And while I have returned to work, Rick is now taking a turn staying home with the boys. We are very blessed that both our employers have allowed us to take time off to nurture our little ones. I know Rick is enjoying his adventures in fatherhood and getting lots quality time with our sons.

I am more than 30 days into my 90 day training plan to ‘kill the hills’ on June 7 in the inaugural Asheville Half Marathon. My first month of training went well. I worked up to running 5 miles without walking and have lost 24 of the 28 pounds I gained during pregnancy. Phase 1 was a success!

Since phase 1 is complete, I now begin phase 2: speed up. I have taken it very easy these first 30 days. Childbirth isn’t exactly easy on the bod, so I’ve made strategic choices to not bite off more than I can chew. First, I’ve been running gadget free. That’s right, no GPS watch. I did run with it my first week, and was horrified by my pace causing me to be in a bad mood and push too hard. Thus, I decided to leave the Garmin at home and just focus on mileage, rather than worry about my pace. I also resisted the temptation to sign up for another half marathon 3 weeks before Asheville. I was thinking it would be a great “test run” but I decided I need to build up to 13 miles more slowly and signed up for the Hartwell Dam 10k instead. Last year I ran that race in 56:36 (9:08 pace) and would like to be somewhere around that time again. Now that I am ready to pick up the pace, this month I will be incorporating both 400s and a 4 miler at my desired half marathon race pace to my weekly routine.

I have a 4 miler planned for today. It is raining, but I am going to run anyway. Today is the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon tragedy. As I run I will remember those who lost their lives, especially Martin Richards, the youngest of the victims on April 15, 2013. As I run I will pray for his mom, his dad, his brother, his sister. I will thank God for my boys who are healthy and safe. And I will proudly remember that I am a member of this crazy group of endurance athletes who voluntarily run 13.1 and 26.2 miles for the fun of it. Not all of us can be quick (I know I’m not), but we can all be strong.

We Can Stop This

Last week, while out for a run, I started thinking about women’s history month. March is a time to celebrate the achievements of women throughout history, and I could not help but think about Katherine V. Switzer. Switzer was the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon. At the time women were not permitted to run such distances for a multitude of reasons, one of which being it was believed that marathon running would cause damage to a women’s reproductive organs, possibly even causing the uterus to…uh…fall out. Obviously this belief had much more to do with negative stereotypes about women being weaker and less athletic than men, rather than scientific evidence (I have run a total of 5 half marathons and marathons combined, and am happy to report my uterus is still where it should be). Early in the marathon the race director tried to pull Switzer from the field, but stopped his attempt to remove her when Switzer’s boyfriend knocked him over.

This event forever changed Switzer. She became an advocate for women’s running and played a significant role in seeing the marathon distance open to women in the Olympic Games for the first time in 1984. I was born in 1985 and have never known a world which barred women from marathon running. I like to think God was waiting for that change before he ushered me to planet earth.

There are a lot of privileges afforded to me because brave women of the past have courageously fought against gender discrimination. I can vote because of Susan B. Anthony. I can preach and serve as a leader in the church because of Lucy Farrow. I can run marathons because of Katherine Switzer.

But the work is not over. Sadly, women all over the world are still denied basic rights and fall subject to cruel mistreatment because of their gender. Baby girls are abandoned in India at an alarming rate because of the “financial liability” they cause their families. Women in many African nations are forced to undergo female genital mutilation, a gruesome practice that is intended to make pleasure impossible during sex. Women all over the world still experience domestic violence and sexual abuse at an alarming rate. And just because I am not personally suffering does not mean I am not responsible to continue the work of my sisters before me. We can stop this. We must stop this.

But how?

I would like to call attention to a ministry organization called The Mordecai Project, a ministry run by none other than my dad (yes, men can be involved in ending the global oppression of women too!). They are working tirelessly to end gender oppression. Some of their ongoing projects include an orphanage and school for young girls in India, a domestic violence shelter in Columbia, and a shelter for women in Malawi (this project also includes an education campaign to end female genital mutilation).

If you have not ever read Isaiah 61, go read it right now. When the Spirit leads us, we can be partners with the Lord in doing Kingdom work. We can bring hope to the hopeless, freedom to the captives, and good news to those who are lost. I am currently training to run the Asheville Half Marathon on June 7. I am running this race to raise awareness and financial support for Mordecai Ministries. Donations can be made directly on the Mordecai website.

Women are suffering all over the world, and though this problem may seem insurmountable at times, I serve a God who is in the business of going great things through ordinary people like you and I. We can stop this. We must stop this. We WILL stop this.

http://www.themordecaiproject.org

Babies and Bibles and Bears (Oh My!)

Just over a month ago I gave birth for the first time, welcoming home my second son in a 9 month period. Needless to say, my life has reached a new level of messy. Some days it feels like my main mission in life is to make sure Grady and Han don’t die (and this is much harder than it might seem considering Grady’s new favorite pastime is trying to sneak up the stairs or nosedive off any piece of furniture he can successfully climb up).

The first week home from the hospital I read God Revealed by Graham Cooke. The main point of his short work is that God is always trying to elevate your view of Him. He writes that when most people go through a trial or transition, they ask “Why is this happening to me?” But that is the wrong question, according to Graham. What we should ask is, “God, who do you want to be for me right now?”

And that is the question I asked. In this new season, as a parent of two, who do you want to be for me, God?

And very clearly I felt the Lord tell me, “I want to be your Mother.”

This caught me by surprise. God is our heavenly father, not mother, right? As it turns out, He can be both. In fact, Scripture is full of feminine imagery for God. He is compared to a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wing (Luke 13:34), a nursing mother (Isaiah 49:15), a comforting mother (Isaiah 66:13), and my favorite- a mama bear (Hosea 13:8).

I missed out on the first 12 months of Grady’s life. When Rick and I welcomed Grady to the family, he was already walking and it is very rare that he slows down for long enough for me to actually hold him. This week I caught him at a particularly tired moment. He asked me if he could watch Finding Nemo and I agreed. He sat in my lap and I wrapped my arms around him. As I silently professed to God how thankful I was for the moment to cuddle with Grady, I heard God speak again. I was overwhelmed with His desire to do the same with me, of how He longs for me to just be with Him, still in His presence, so He can show me just how big His love for me is. It was like God appeared to me just as the large, African American woman from The Shack and gave me a giant bear hug.

But God is showing me another side of His role as a heavenly mother too. A mother’s love is not just sweet and affectionate. It’s powerful, protective, and maybe even a bit frightening. The book of Ecclesiastes talks a great deal about the importance of fearing the Lord. And this concept is sometimes confusing. If God is so loving, why should I fear Him? Well it is not because God is without love that we fear Him. It is because of how strong God’s love is that we fear Him. Hananiah is pretty helpless right now. He cannot defend himself. You better believe that if anything or anyone tried to harm him, I would get in the way. God is like a mama bear because he loves His children so much, he might just rip somebodies face off if they mess with his precious babies.

The Lord is teaching me that He is my heavenly Mother, the sweet mama that wants to hold me in his arms and the ferocious mother bear who will reek havoc if someone tries to mess with me.

Are you in a new season of life? Facing trial, tragedy, or transition? Who does God want to be for you right now?

The Birth Story

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Not sure how to begin this story of Han’s birth…

 On May 5, 2014, Cinco de Mayo, Rick and myself decided to have our selves a private fiesta (insert *wink* here).

 39 weeks later, at 4 am I woke up having my first contraction. The day before I had felt pretty lousy, suffering from a sinus infection and an ear infection, but by God’s miraculous healing touch all my symptoms minus a runny nose had vanished. I just felt excited. Today could be the day I meet Hananiah!

I went about my usual routine, getting Grady ready for the day ahead and packing him an overnight bag just in case. My friend Lindsay came to pick him up, and Rick suggested I take a nap, as he somewhat frantically started loading up the car with our bags, installing Han’s car seat, and sweeping rooms of the house.

I attempted to nap around 10 am but my contractions were coming more regularly now, and I wasn’t able to sleep. I decided to put on a movie, Bride Wars, while I timed my contractions and wrote them down. They were coming anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes apart.

After the movie ended and I realized that these contractions were not letting up, I called my doula Brittany to let her know that I was in labor and that I would let her know when I was ready for her to make her way to Seneca to assist Rick and me.

 That afternoon my contractions grew more intense. I began counting up to 20 and then back down from 20 at each one to help get over the waves of pain. I commonly use this technique to get through the last minute or so of an 800 repeat when I workout on the track doing intervals, and it really helped me mentally to get through to the peak of the pain, and then see relief in sight as the pain came back down. As I grew more tired Rick began to help me by counting for me and holding my hand with each one.

 Around 4 pm I decided that I wanted to see if taking a hot shower might help, as I had been side-lying in bed for most of the contractions. While standing up my contractions started coming about every 2 minutes, which totally freaked me out because my doctor had said to come to the hospital when my contractions were regularly 5 minutes apart. I could not handle the intensity of the contractions coming every 2 minutes in the shower so I got out and made my way downstairs to lie on the sofa and eat a chocolate pudding cup. I called my O.B.’s office, describing my contraction pattern to the on-call doctor, and they said to come on over to the hospital.

 I’ve never seen Rick move so fast. He put a few more items in the car and then tried to hurry me along. I told him I wanted to finish my pudding cup on the couch and he reluctantly agreed. Then after I finished the pudding, I asked him to make me a hot cup of tea to help clear out my sinuses. He again agreed but declared, “Okay but this is the last thing!”

 His worry for me was both endearing and comical.

 We called Brittany and told her to meet us at the hospital.

We arrived at the hospital around 6:30 and, to my disappointment, we were told my doctor was on vacation and the other doctor from my practice was also gone. The doctor on call was a man I had never met. We also learned that I was only dilated 1 cm. The nurse suspected that the reason for the rapid contractions might be because my urine indicated I was dehydrated. They checked the baby’s heart rate and my vitals and then told me I could go home if I wanted to labor longer there, which I certainly did (the pain of the contractions was a lot harder to cope with lying in the hospital bed).

 Back at home my contractions regularly were coming every 2 to 3 minutes and I was also having some immediately back to back which we started calling the “twinsies.” Rick continued the count up and count down while Brittany lightly rubbed my back, both making sure I drank water in between contractions. The pain was growing so intense I started feeling nauseous so Brittany drew up a hot bath for me. The water felt amazing. I immediately felt relief from the nausea and my contractions seemed much more bearable.

 After about 30 minutes, I felt like it was time to get out of the tub and head to the hospital again. Upon standing again my contractions felt super strong and Rick helped me through the next few by using a technique called the “8th grade dance.” We swayed for a while and then it was back to the hospital around midnight.

At the hospital we learned I was still only 3 cm dilated. After 3 more hours of laboring at the hospital, walking the halls with lots of counting and “dancing” I had dilated 5 cm. At this point I was extremely fatigued. I seriously wanted an epidural, even though I had planned for an un-medicated birth, but I was still very concerned that an epidural might slow everything down and lead to an eventual c-section. One of the nurses suggested I have a dose of Staydol, which after consulting with Brittany  (again worried drugs might slow everything down) decided on that option.

My contractions felt just as painful after that but I was able to relax my whole body in-between contractions (my legs had not stopped shaking). We called this drug the “Disney drug” because it made me slightly loopy at first. In-between one contraction I asked Rick and Brittany why Papa Smurf was kicking me in the ribs.

At 6:30 am I was still only 5.5 cm dilated and the Staydol had completely worn off. The intensity of my contractions had reached a new level of pain. I had mentally prepared for this 24-hour day to be the most painful of my life, but as 26 hours had passed since my first contraction and I still was only at the half-way point as far as dilating goes, I craved relief. Brittany was helping me to the bathroom to empty my bladder when I had the most painful contraction yet. As I let out a loud cry, I was comforted by the most wonderful sight – my doctor poked her head into the bathroom.

“I’m so glad you are here!” I exclaimed. I LOVE my doctor and knowing she would deliver my baby was such a blessing.

I asked her if she thought I would continue progressing if I got an epidural, and she assured me that I would. She saw no risk of me needing a c-section, especially since my water had not yet broke.

I laid my head on Rick’s chest while Dr. Drake gave me the PERFECT epidural. All the nurses talked about how good he was, but even they were amazed at the results. I could still move my legs and also could pee by myself, making a catheter unnecessary (one of the reasons many women choose un-medicated births is because the need for a catheter often leads to UTIs).

Then I slept. For the next 10 hours I rested, texted family members, and enjoyed the company of Rick and Brittany.

 Around 2:45 pm I was dilated 9 cm and knew time to push was coming soon. I told Rick and Brittany I wanted some alone time to pray. I had purchased a fuzzy bear suit for Han to wear home from the hospital, and I clung to that as I prayed for his safety and thanked God for him.

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 Just before 4 pm I was dilated 10 cm and was told my doctor would be in shortly. It was almost time to push! I asked to be alone with Rick. When everyone had cleared the room I started crying, “I’m scared.” Rick hugged and kissed me and assured me that I would do great and I felt a new wave of confidence.

 Finally the moment arrived to get Han born. I requested that Rick cue up a worship playlist for background music. I was surrounded by such an amazing team of people-my doctor Christina, also a Christ-follow, our good friend from church, Angie, was the nurse assisting, and Brittany and Rick of course. I could sense so strongly the presence of the Holy Spirit with all of us in that room, and I felt so well cared for and supported by my support team.

 In between pushes we all talked about distance running (don’t act surprised). My doctor is about to run her first half marathon and I tried to offer her encouragement as the big day is only two weeks away. As I continued to push I grew less chatty but my support team kept up the dialogue making me feel very at ease. My doctor directed the pushing until she noticed that I could tell we had missed a contraction. She then instructed me to direct the pushing since I could clearly feel the pressure of each contraction. Nurse Angie was so encouraging. She kept saying things like, “Maggie we can tell you are an athlete! You are pushing like a pro!”

And then with one great push, he was out. With Kim Walker singing, “Spirit Break Out” in the background, baby Han entered this world. Prior to delivery I felt the Lord tell me that Hananiah would be a worshiper, one who led others into His presence. Rick and I both feel that song has prophetic meaning for Han’s life.

Rick embraced me as Angie quickly suctioned Han’s mouth and nose and then Hananiah Redding Turner was placed on my chest for me to hold for the first time. What joy!

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I’m still in awe of how amazing those two days were. God blessed me with such a fabulous support team. Rick and I both agreed that having Brittany serve as my doula was a tremendous blessing. She was just a great a help to Rick as she was me and I know she played a huge role in making the birth experience so positive. And then there is my husband. I really have no words that could adequately express just how overwhelmed I am by Rick’s love and support. He is my partner, my best friend, and my love. 

Don’t really know how to end the story, so I’ll just say that I serve an awesome God. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him, and through this experience I was, and continue to be, overwhelmed with His goodness and love for me. My family just continues to get more awesome. 

 

maggie w boys

Expectant

I worry about stupid things sometimes.

I have let a lot of worries pile up lately. With Christmas and a new baby coming in the next month, my mind has been clouded with a lot of questions.

How do I get my loved ones great gifts without breaking the bank?
Why do electric breast pumps cost $250?!?
What if I go into labor while my doctor is out of town?
Why can’t all women be given a 12 week paid maternity leave?
What if I have to have a C-section and can’t walk up the stairs to my own bedroom for 6 weeks?
What if I fail at breastfeeding?

This weekend I had a break-through though. Whatever is the opposite of a big slap in the face (a great big spiritual bear hug?), that is what I experienced. Saturday I was cleaning Grady’s nursery and found a huge stack of cards from so many wishing us blessings as we completed the adoption of our son Grady. I immediately felt the Lord reminding me of his love for my family and his provission in tough times.

I thought back to last year at this time, when I was needlessly worrying about my family’s situation. My head was filled with fear and doubt. Our adoption agency was going bankrupt. We were concerned for Grady’s health. The church was in a difficult position and pay cuts, if not layoffs, were surely going to happen. But what happened then? Despite the agency going bankrupt, we were able to get Grady home. Not only were we able to bring him home, but he was marvelously healthy. We also finished the process without going into any debt, thanks to the very generous support from our friends, family, friends of family, friends of friends, and even some strangers. Rick was able to keep his job and the church really experienced the faithfulness and provision of God. Bottom line: God took care of us, like he always has.

This Sunday at church we built an altar to the Lord. Not for the sake of anything weird like sacrificing animals, but to commemorate God’s faithfulness to us. When we forget God’s love and provision it is totally normal to worry and fret over the challenges that come our way. But remembering the goodness of God is a great reality check. Just like expectant mothers eagerly await the birth of a child, Christ-followers should also live in a state of expectancy, eagerly awaiting the gifts God loves to lavish on us.

And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.”
Joshua 4:20-24

Spinx Run Fest Race Report

Spinx 10k Race photo

And the countdown has begun. This Saturday marked 27 weeks of pregnancy, which means I have now entered my third trimester. To celebrate, I ran Greenville’s Finest 10k, which took place at the Spinx Run Fest hosted by the Greenville Track Club.

Before the race began, I laid hands on my belly and prayed, “God I will love you and praise you no matter how this goes, but if you could please let Han rest anywhere but right over my bladder, I would be especially thankful.” Some might think it trivial to pray such a prayer, but it made sense to me. And not to my surprise, baby Han hung out in just the right spot during the race. I did not have to stop at a port-a-potty one time, which is practically a miracle since I was running at a leisurely 11:15 pace, making my overall time just over 70 minutes. At the half way point, I had to fight back a few tears. You might say it was just my raging hormones, but I really just felt the Lord’s presence with me as I covered those miles, reminding me His love is felt on the Swamp Rabbit Trail just as easily as it is in church or chapel.

I could not have asked for a better race experience. The event featured a beautiful course, very friendly volunteers/organizers, and an incredibly fun finish in the Flour Flied Stadium where they announce your name as you approach the finish line. But more than being a well-organized event, this race did something for my spirits. I had a pretty negative idea of what pregnancy would be like back in May. To me pregnancy meant nausea, decreased fitness levels, and many sleepless nights. Basically I thought I would not feel like myself for 9 months. But I have been pleasantly surprised in having a great experience so far. Sure I did feel nauseous for a good portion of the first trimester, and the second trimester has come with less restful sleep and some back pain, but most days I still feel really good. Running this race made me even more confident in the fact that I’m still Maggie (and I’m still fit, even without a flat tummy). Now instead of dreading the last stretch that is typically the hardest part of pregnancy, I’m confident I can meet the challenges.

“In the first half of the race, don’t be an idiot. In the second half, don’t be a wimp!” –Scott Douglas, editor of Runner’s World Newswire

The Happy, Pregnant, Mother Runner

future tiger
I’m always in training for something. Distance running is a great analogy for many aspects of life. When Rick and I were in the process of adopting Grady, I trained for my first marathon to toughen up for motherhood. It does not surprise me at all that the apostle Paul uses the metaphor of running a race to describe life as a disciple of Christ. Right now I’m training for the “marathon” of labor and delivery to bring baby Han into this world in January. Part of my training for delivery includes maintaining a certain level of physical fitness. Since I ran, cycled, and did weight training prior to conception, my doctor has cleared me to continue these activities for as long as it is comfortable for me to do so. I’m hoping that with my race experience, along with the help of my doctor, Rick and my amazing doula, Brittany Maxwell, I’ll be able to have a natural, un-medicated birth. Instead of telling myself, “just one more mile” it will be more like, “just one more contraction.” Of course I know creating a birth plan is not at all like making a shopping list. Anything can happen. If I need an emergency C-section, I’m having a C-section. But treating my pregnancy like training for a race is helping me stay physically healthy and emotionally optimistic.

After I ran the Midnight Flight 10k at 20 weeks pregnant, I told my husband I would not run that distance again during my pregnancy on account of my frequent need to pee. However, my good friends Robert and Pricilla are running the Spinx Run Fest Marathon on October 26 and I really wanted to find a way to participate with them. They ran races of shorter distances when I ran my first marathon and I wanted to do the same with them. When I found out the Spinx Run Fest 10k had two aid stations on the course I got so excited. Six miles is no problem if port-a-potties are accessible! There was only one problem: the entry fee. Bottom line, we’re saving up for many expenses that will come with our addition of Han and have cut back on recreational spending significantly. But to make a long story short, a very kind and generous someone made it possible for me to participate in the event anyway, without paying the entry fee myself. Their kindness did not just make my day, they made my whole month.

Though I will certainly not be running anywhere close to 26.2 miles, I will run my third 10k during this pregnancy on October 26 at the Spinx Run Fest hosted by the Greenville Track Club. I’m very thankful that the organizers of this fine event decided to put two aid stations along the course. They have made this pregnant mother runner very happy.
If you want to run with me and my friends on October 26, register today! I ran the Spinx Run Fest half marathon last year and it was by far my favorite half marathon. The course is absolutely beautiful. http://www.spinxrunfest.com/spinx/SRF_HOME.html