Every April or May for the last several years we've been in Niger, I've taught a swimming and/or water polo phys ed class at Sahel Academy. I wasn't sure whether that would be the case this year or not, but since it has made the school calendar and the phys ed teacher has said he wants my help, it looks like that is coming up... soon! However, it has been a few years - and while in the States for home assignment, I did not swim laps a single time... so I'm trying to get into the habit again.
It is hard. It doesn't matter that 20-25 years ago I could swim several miles a day without even blinking an eye... It doesn't matter that just 2 years ago I could tread water all afternoon while teaching in 115' heat, could cart non-swimmers back and forth across the pool, and exhaust all of the participating high schoolers as they drilled along with me training for our intramural water polo tourney - because today, I'm sorely out of practice.
It isn't so much that I'm horribly out of shape either; rather, I'm out of condition in the world of swimming. Thus, these days, whenever I can get to the pool, I head that way and swim laps. After 30 minutes my arms feel like lead weights. Treading water is only a little better - at least I can still tread for extended periods relying only on my legs (leaving my hands free for helping others or tossing a ball around) and still hold a conversation. Yet it seems harder than I remembered - and last time was with a 4 month old baby in tow.
Can you hear me sigh...? It is hard work... I'm not afraid of hard work; sometimes, in fact, I relish it! But it isn't all just fun and games, that is for sure. Just thinking about it seems daunting and wearying.
As I've been swimming laps the past few weeks, I've had the following words mulling about in my head:
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Cor 9:24-27)
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:13, 14)
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1, 2)
Nearly 3 months in, it no longer feels like a new year - in fact, it will soon be 25% gone! It is that time of the school year when it challenging to keep pushing on as hard as we should. Mission-wise, we are beyond the "newness" of a new term and settling into routine - and realizing that that routine, without too much of any sort of break, will be our lives for the next 3+ years and some days, seems long and overwhelming. Rising prices make budgets difficult to make and keep. Security scares keep us on edge and wondering if and when "something" might happen...
And so the Holy Spirit reminds me that just as staying in shape to achieve physical and athletic goals is hard work, pressing on to do all as if unto the Lord while serving wholeheartedly in the spot where He has sovereignly placed me with my only goal being His honor and glory... well, that is also hard work. Sure, it is God who empowers and enables, but He expects me to keep on, even when I'm tempted to grow weary. In fact, we are told in Galations to "not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary..." and then again in Thessalonians "But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good..." Isn't it amazing? God knows that weariness will accost us - and we shouldn't be surprised or feel like He's let us down or we are doing something wrong when it does - but as long as we keep our eyes fixed on the prize, as long as we aren't striving in vain in our own strength and working towards our own goals, as long as we continue to keep in shape, spiritually. Weariness isn't inevitable; rather, it is preventable!
This week's gratitude list:
#812 swimming laps and realizing that words studied and memorized years ago, even if they are still no longer word perfect, are still hidden, speaking God's truth to my heart
#813 knowing that I do not have to be bested by, or succumb to, weariness - as long as I'm following my good and gentle shepherd, abiding in Him and obeying
#814 my sweet girl who happily shares the gift of no-bake cookies made specifically for her with her family
#815 my girls' favorite young-woman-to-look-up-to - she came, made crepes for us on Sunday and then hung out with us at the pool for a bit
#816 new recipes to try this week and planning schedules and menus for visitors arriving early Saturday morning
#817 Little girls sharing a "pain au chocolat, des frites et un coca," (or a croissant with bits of chocolate in it, french fries and a coke) for breakfast and giggling because they knew they were getting away with something
#818 long weekends
#819 praising the Lord after hearing that a medical issue wasn't what we thought it was
#820 seeing amazing photos of this land and her people
#821 eating at the Rec Center twice in one weekend... while Daddy's away, the wife and kidlets play - with his permission, of course
#822 Obeying and then peace even though the obedience was hard
#823 receiving and texting back "xoxoxoxo" to say goodnight, even when he's a country away
#824 hearing that my boy is becoming a decent first baseman
#825 rearranging the furniture in anticipation of Grandpa Gene's arrival - he'll be here in one week
#826 friends I can call when security seems questionable - and they welcome our family with open arms
#827 being held in a long glad-to-be-home hug
|Voilà! Anna's award certificate - for some reason, they find her name very difficult to spell!|
But she worked hard and she's very proud of her prize for this particular competition.