Sunday, December 7, 2014

When Winning Isn't About Getting There First

When I was a runner, I didn't do the whole distance thing.

I put on my shoes, I got my rear end out the door, and I ran hard for 30 minutes.

And then I met John. He's a distance runner by nature so my fast spurts didn't really appeal to him.

Nonetheless, the boy was smitten with me so he laced up his shoes and hit the pavement with me often.

If my motto was get going and get it done, his was most certainly slow and steady wins the race; and he is as slow and steady as they come.

During one of our runs, where I told him he was dragging his heals and prolonging what I wanted to be done with, he kind of smiled at me and started talking about his days of playing tennis in high school. Apparently they called him the bulldog because he play slow and steady, and he could wear out his opponent even if the rival was a "stronger" player.

I think I smiled adoringly at him, told him that was great and then told him to pick up the pace because we had places to go and things to do, so move it, Mr. Worth! {I'm always super gracious, you know.}

So I married John knowing that he was Mr. Slow and Steady, except when it came to marrying me; then and only then was he fast-paced and quick acting.

Buying anything, picking doctors, mapping out trips, planning for the future, buying a house -- all slow and steady.

It used to drive me a little nuts, but lately I've been learning why the old adage -- slow and steady wins the race -- is likely true, especially if that race is a long and daunting one. Especially if that race is the race of life.

I've always been fast paced, a doer who gets it done; it worked well for a long time until it didn't. After I gave birth to our second boy, I realized I was running on fumes. I needed more down time. I needed less busy. I needed more rest. I was sick. I was always tired. I was never rested enough. Slowly I began to give myself fully into rest times, vacations and relaxation, steadily letting go of the busyness and fast pace that was killing me.

Going at a million miles per moment had left me tired, sick and malnourished in so many ways I didn't even fully understand until I started to become healthy, maybe for the first time in my life, physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. It's been a long road of rebuilding, and I'm still on it. There is no "get it done" to this; it's slow and steady all of the way. The road to real health often is.

This morning, I'm snuggled up against my youngest boy, and I'm a little bummed. We're missing day two of Christmas choir shows as well as our normal church service because he fell to the flu this past week; I've been dancing the line of sick and well for the last 24 hours.

I internally groaned when I started feeling like I was also getting sick because now is not the time for illness, I'd said. It's Advent season, and I want to engage fully in everything fun. We're also only a week out from our host daughter arriving from Eastern Europe, and I have much to prepare. I'd planned on going full-steam ahead from now until she arrived.

But yesterday I had to make a choice. I could run forward and run myself into the ground and full-fledged illness, or I could slow down, take it easy and go at this slow and steady, resting more than moving and listening to what my body needed. This morning, I'm asking my brain to slow down, too. I'm inviting it into rest and relaxation so that I can burn brightly instead of burning out.

This slowness isn't just affording my body a chance to heal; it's also giving my mind and heart a chance to focus on making space for Jesus as we prepare to celebrate the greatest gift the world has ever received.

Slow and steady may not be my natural inclination by any means, but it builds endurance and that in itself gives the strength and perseverance needed to run the distance. And I've come to the conclusion that winning isn't about getting there first; it's about getting there well.

Monday, December 1, 2014

2014 Holiday Bucket List: Chicago Botanic Garden's Wonderland Express #Giveaway

Each year, my family aims to experience and enjoy life together during the holidays, placing less emphasis on the gift aspect and more on togetherness. This is part one of a series detailing some of our favorite Chicagoland destinations during the 2014 Christmas season. Be sure to scroll down to the end; one of our favorite places is giving away tickets! 

Destination Three: Chicago Botanic Garden's Wonderland Express
No matter your age, the Wonderland Express never gets old, which is why it makes our holiday bucket list again and again, this year being no exception

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Botanic Garden. 
The boys used to enjoy this holiday train exhibit because our youngest was mesmerized by trains and our oldest was interested in the detailed workings of how the trains run. At ages 5 and 7, they now really dig going through the exhibit and identifying the miniature replicas of famous Chicago-area landmarks like Soldier Field, the ferris wheel at Navy Pier and the Willis Tower. And honestly we really like that part, too, because now instead of chasing them through the exhibit as they chase the trains we actually get to see the fine details of the miniature replicas.

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Botanic Garden
And they each are sites at which to marvel, each being crafted out of natural materials found in nature like bark, wood, pinecones, stones, etc. It's really quite marvelous. The entire exhibit is beautifully and painstakingly detailed.

Last year we also had our first experience with the Wonderland Express and a teenaged host daughter from Eastern Europe who stayed with us for a month. She also liked it, and we found it was a great place for her to enjoy because so little language is needed to understand the exhibit. She really liked it quite a bit, and it was a great way to introduce someone from abroad to the greatness of Chicago! The Wonderland Express is open now through January 4, 2015. You can buy tickets and see more information on times here.

Would you like to see the Wonderland Express for yourself this year? The Chicago Botanic Garden has graciously provided me with four tickets to keep and four to giveaway! Just follow the Rafflecopter instructions, which are SUPER easy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Destination Four: Cuneo Mansion and Gardens Winter Wonderland

A new one on our holiday bucket list this winter, the Cuneo Mansion and Gardens Winter Wonderland promises a relaxed evening with the family as we tour the lighted garden via car. Some days you just need that, especially during the busy holiday season.

This year we plan to hit the wonderland during the week when it's less crowded, and we'll likely do something cheeky like splurge on a hot chocolate or chai for the drive.

Destination Five: Candlelight Service at Immanuel Church on Christmas Eve

If there's one thing we don't miss during the holiday season, it's the Christmas Eve service at Immanuel Church in Gurnee.

We love coming together as a family to sing Christmas songs, and the candlelight is always so beautiful!

This year, Christmas Eve services are as follows; childcare is available for children kindergarten and younger at the first two services.

Please note: I am an ambassador for the Chicago Botanic Garden, and I receive my membership in return for helping families find out what's going on at the garden, which if you've been around here for long know that isn't a hard task at all! We love the garden! All opinions expressed are my own. Also note that I work for Immanuel Church. However, I wouldn't work there if I didn't love it. So there's that.