Tuesday, December 19, 2017

What a Year

Our ministry has two churches in one building: English and Spanish. Pastor David Anaya is the pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista (First Baptist Spanish Church), and I passed him in the foyer the other day. He asked the general question that we all commonly repeat: "How are you?"

The only difference is that he asked me in Spanish, because he knows I'll answer in Spanish (my second language). 

"Hola Hermana Taylor ¿Como  estas?"

Pregnant pause...

At this point, Pastor Anaya, who is also bilingual, switched to English and said, "Oh oh. You took longer than six seconds to answer that..."

My mind was fishing for the Spanish word. I hate when I draw blanks, but a lack of practice causes me to forget words that I would easily know if I would just speak Spanish more often. Fishing...fishing...

"Estoy aprendiendo."

Probably not a perfect sentence (a fragment), but in English it means "I am learning."

Pastor accepted my reply with comprehension and didn't ask any questions. I like it when people don't probe too deeply. In an effort to "say something," it's so easy to say too much. And besides, even if asked, there are some things that I will never share with anyone but God. People can't handle the God-sized burdens anyway. We weren't meant to carry God's cargo.

What a year!

I have learned and am learning, and will continue to learn. And it's not all gloomy, even though some may think that all I can talk about is grieving. Three months into this transition, here are some things I've learned:

1. I have learned that people want to see me smile again. So, I smile for the benefit of others. The "merry heart" mentioned in Scripture is not solely for us. It's medicine for others. "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones." (Proverbs 17:22) But there are times when the Lord brings a smile to my face that doesn't need prompting. Like the time I looked outside and the snow was falling in those huge flakes that are the size of quarters. That makes my high-beam smile turn on automatically as I stand at the window, delighted like a child.

Tranquil beauty
2. I have learned that there is still beauty in this world. When I was in Israel with our church group in October (a very brave adventure for a new widow), I often saw things that made me stop in my tracks to capture the scene with my camera. And then I would think to myself, "God wanted me to see that," inspiring a spirit of worship. "Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness." (Psalm 29:2)

3. I have learned that death pays no attention to the calendar. A friend's Mom recently passed away and I had this thought: "This is too close to Christmas." But God numbers our days, and He decides when our time on Earth is complete. The fact that houses have lights dripping from them and Christmas music is blaring in every store means nothing to the calendar of God. We see things differently than God sees, and that will always be so. "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." (Psalm 90:12)

Be still
4. I have learned that solitude is highly underrated. For the first time in my adult life, I am leaving white space generously on my schedule. There are some days when the Lord wants me to just be still and know that He is God. "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalm 46:10) Do we understand what that means? The Strong's concordance has a list of meanings for the phrase "be still," and here is just a portion: "to sink down, relax, withdraw..." When I "sink down"  and allow myself to "relax and withdraw" for just a season, I can be still in my soul to perceive and acknowledge the presence of God. It's not just a matter of being still in our physical bodies. Our souls need a stillness or we'll wear ourselves out. God knows this, but we have to learn it.

5. I have learned that fear is like boxing with a shadow. My new habit when my soul gets rackety is to stop and ask myself, "What is bothering you?" If I don't address the issue, it brings a floating sense of fear, draining valuable energy. When we don't have time to think, we'll have to make time to fret. Trusting God with our "what ifs" beats fretting any day. "What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee." (Psalm 56:3)

No words
What a year. If you had asked me in December 2016 to "predict" the outcome of 2017, I would never have come up with this ending. But this chapter of the story was written by God in advance, so He knew. And He knows what's next.

The blog will be on break while we do some remodeling of Keep the Heart. Thank you for following this blog for the past five years. I know that many of you will pray with me as I ask the Lord to "establish my thoughts" for the coming days. God bless your Christmas and your New Year with grace and peace.

"Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love." (2 John 1:3)

Francie Taylor, Founder of Keep the Heart 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

I Want to Be a VW

VW. We immediately think of the little bulb-shaped car that has been around since the 1930s. It was popular with surfers, hippies, and lovers of fuel efficiency. And it's still popular, but I've never even had a ride in one...yet.

VW is the acronym that I've chosen for my widowhood. I didn't choose to be a widow; God chose it for me. So my task is finding a way to live in this new role without being a constant source of tears, gloominess and irritability. Full-time work.

Here's my initial take on the word "widow": It needs something in front of it.

VIBRANT widow.



The new VW.

A "vibrant" person is defined as "full of energy and enthusiasm." Many of us were that way before our loved ones passed, but suddenly, we may have become somber and often solemn. To become vibrant again, we will need to walk and wait: Walk with God, and wait for the healing. It is simply unrealistic to expect to be our old cheerfully bright and joyous selves while laboring through grief. 

Vibrancy is a worthwhile goal, but it is not meant to be immediate. I have vibrant sister friends in my life on purpose. They remind me what it looks like to live abundantly, and they encourage me without infringing on the essential processes of grief. Vibrant people are good for us, especially when our vibrancy has been placed firmly in the "off" position for a season. By God's grace, one day we will be vibrant again, but this takes time. A heart that has been overwhelmed by grief needs the healing time and grace of God to mend. "From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I." (Psalm 61:2)

You may find that people want you to be upbeat when you're clearly down. Do not fake it. Do not. And don't feel obligated to explain yourself, either. Those who have grieved recognize grief. There are those who understand that it may have been your crowning achievement just to get showered and dressed for the day. And then there are those who have not had their turn in the classroom of grief. Patience is required, on both sides.

With God's help and in due season, the vibrant spirit will return.

A "virtuous" person lives a principled life, and the best way to achieve this is with God's Word as the foundation. After a traumatic loss, there is a real temptation to abandon habits that kept us spiritually healthy and whole. Resist with every fiber of your being, and add a layer of protection by having an accountability partner in your life. I have a few people with whom I can be completely honest, and they keep a prayerful and caring eye on me while I am in this valley.

There is a tremendous risk of having our foundation destroyed during the dark days of grief, and we will need to be vigilant and alert to this risk. "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psalm 11:3) What a waste it would be to come through this difficult time without having learned or grown at all. With all the energy and effort that we expend just to survive the unpredictable tidal waves of grief, we don't want to come through the flood physically alive but spiritually dead. If we ever needed the Word of God, we need it now. Truly, we need God before, during, and after grieving.

By God's grace, we will develop a closer walk with Him as He develops virtue in us.

A "valuable" person has "desirable or esteemed characteristics or qualities." They  are admirable, and someone we would count as a wise pattern. They are also dinged and dented by suffering, so they have a virtual storehouse of compassion from which others can draw in times of need.

I am writing this blog at 6a.m., after having been awake since 2a.m. I had a question for the Lord in the middle of the night: "Who can I call at this hour?"

I'll bet you guessed the answer: Only God.

"When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up." (Psalm 27:10) My family and friends love me, but it seems a lot to ask them to endure second-hand insomnia just because I happen to have an abundance. No. Even those who have said, "Call me anytime, day or night" are not going to hear from me at 2a.m. 

But during the normal daylight hours, there are several sister friends that I can call, and they are not all widows. They are simply willing to lend an ear, a shoulder, and a box of tissues. On a recent trip to Israel, there was a sister friend who took a keen interest in looking after me, and it wasn't in an annoying way. It was in a treasured and special way, allowing me an outlet when I needed to cry, talk, or just vent. Some people truly have a gift for this, making them valuable.

Widows can develop the gift of being good listeners without trying to be "fixer uppers." It is more valuable to be a good listener than to be a great problem-solver. Why? Because there are times when a person is just longing to be heard; not repaired. Those of us who know grief can easily recall the stunning shock of the initial loss, followed by agony, anger, anxiety and so much more. We didn't want to be fixed; we wanted someone to listen with both empathy and sympathy. It is best to leave the repair work to God. "He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." (Psalm 147:3)

Current widows have the shoes of grief in their closets, and that makes us valuable to those who will be given their own pair to wear in the days ahead. Think about it: every married sister friend that we know has a likelihood of waking up to a life without her beloved (unless she passes away first).

With carefully chosen words, we can be a godly encouragement to those engulfed in fresh grief.

I'm not at any of these places yet. I'm not vibrant, and I refuse to pretend. I don't "feel" virtuous, but I am sticking close to the Lord to sustain my broken spirit. And as for value, a massive identity crisis has consumed my thoughts, leaving me feeling like my "value" has decreased...even though my rational mind (when available) knows this to be untrue. I don't fit any of these descriptions yet. It's not time...yet.

I want to be a VW: a Vibrant Widow, a Virtuous Widow, and a Valuable Widow. It will take time, and will only come after the trying and purifying times of grief do their work in my heart and life. My job is simply to yield. God does the rest.

And since I've never ridden in a VW bug, maybe I'll rent one on vacation one of these days. Who knows? Maybe I'll even need to buy a used VW as my signature vehicle.

Francie Taylor, Keep the Heart
"But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." 
(Job 23:10 KJV)

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

What Just Happened?

I find myself praying in questions lately.

"Lord, what just happened here?"
(This time last month, we were walking a sandy beach in Florida, calling it our "last anniversary vacation.")

"Did you REALLY take my Norman ALREADY?"
(I spent way too much time on Google, and all the articles said that Norman had a chance of surviving at least a year.)

"LORD, are you SURE I can endure all this excruciating pain?"
(I'm certain that I cannot bear this, but obviously, if I'm typing, I'm still bearing this somehow. Only God.)
The last anniversary vacation

Now here's what I do not want after you've read this: platitudes.

Absolutely no platitudes.

(Platitude: Overused statement applied liberally and repeatedly in an attempt to comfort or instruct. Paraphrased definition.)

Example: "Heaven is getting sweeter."

I understand that this is a phrase from a song, and it is not offensive in any way. It just doesn't help a heart that is processing tremendous, aching loss. Or perhaps I'll narrow that: it does not help my heart. 

My Norman is at home with the Lord, free from the cancerous prison his body had become. I am grateful for his new life. I am mourning his absence from our lives here

I know it's a temporary separation. I know that I'll see him again someday. And I know that God's merciful decision to take Norman so quickly literally cancelled the tremendous suffering caused by the rapid growth of two aggressive forms of cancer. But for now, my Beloved One-Flesh soulmate of almost 35 years is no longer here. All his shoes and clothes are in their usual spot. His car is in the garage. His cologne is in the bathroom. The evidence of his existence is here, and his fingerprints are everywhere, but my Norman is not here. That reality is not sweet

Some of the helpful things I've heard have been very short sentences such as, "I'm so sorry" or "I'm still praying." When all else fails, try the silent, brief hug (not the long look into the eyes while clutching the shoulders of the grieving person). I'm only speaking for myself, but if you clutch me and look deeply into my grieving eyes long enough, you will succeed in making me cry. I'm sure that's not the goal.

Many times, grief reactions will not make sense to those on the observation deck of life. We who are grieving went to bed with a loved one on this side of Heaven and woke up with them on the other side. We may be numb at times, followed by feeling way too much pain. If you've ever had surgery with general anesthesia, you know what it's like to be blissfully unaware that the surgeon is cutting you open, or resetting a bone, or removing an organ. And you also may recall what you felt like as the anesthesia wore off and the pain roared in. 

The loss of a loved one has a form of numbness that acts as an anesthesia, allowing the shocked and stunned family members to make it through planning a funeral, selecting a casket from the "casket showroom" (who came up with that idea?), choosing a burial plot, and then getting dressed and showing up for the funeral.

After hugging countless people during the visitation, many of whom are weeping, the exhaustion transforms the numbness into a fog. 

I liked the fog. 

When you see a grieving person at a funeral and they are not crying, it doesn't mean that they're fine. In my case, there was a protective, grace-filled cocoon provided by God. In that "secret place" of grace, God cradled me from the tempest of fresh grief. Without the Lord's protective provision, many would not survive the incredibly searing pain of a newly-broken heart. You may not see tears, but that doesn't mean there are no tears. 

Eventually, the numbness, like anesthesia, wears off and the healing begins. Healing hurts.

I was never able to tell Norman, "Honey, it's okay to go now." Norman would have known I was just mouthing the words without really meaning it. So I asked the Lord to give me something to say that would put Norman's mind at ease and that would also be genuine. God gave me this: "Norman, I can't say it's okay for you to go, but I can say that I know that God will take care of me." Norman nodded, satisfied that I at least understood that truth.

I know that God will take care of me. He has promised this multiple times. I have already experienced His tender mercies at times when I felt like I was suffocating in grief.

"Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old." (Psalm 25:6)

And I know that God will bring me through this, and that I'll eventually be reconciled to this reality. Just don't tell a grieving person to cry, and likewise don't demand a smile. Grief is labor. In fact, it reminds me of the birthing process, and most people know that if you say the wrong thing to a woman in labor, it will not go well. Don't make demands on the grieving soul. We have enough to do just learning how to breathe again.

"The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses." (Psalm 25:17)

In due season, the Lord will "bring me out of my distresses." 

On another note, if you've visited the Shop at Keep the Heart recently, you may have noticed a "closed for maintenance" sign. For those who may be wondering, the future of Keep the Heart is being carefully examined as I learn how to be a widow and a solo ministry-business owner. My Norman H ran everything on the technical and shipping side of Keep the Heart, and he greatly enjoyed it. I have been in charge of the marketing and writing side for all these years, which was my favorite spot in this humble little company. Now that Norman is at home with the Lord, we would appreciate your prayers as we try to figure out what to do next, at home and at Keep the Heart.

Norman H: August 21, 1951-September 15, 2017
I would like to resume writing and publishing as soon as possible, after allowing for a season of healing. In the meantime, the Shop at Keep the Heart will be closed temporarily until the November issue of the eMagazine is published on December 1st. The eMag will be delayed due to the passing of our Norman. We hope you'll understand, and that you'll pardon the delay.

Finally, if you've placed an order at Keep the Heart before the Shop was temporarily closed, your order will still be processed by the end of this month (September 2017). We will include a gift for the delay in processing, as we have always strived to be incredibly prompt in processing orders. Again, please pardon the delay.

I know that thousands of you are praying, and I thank you for your continued prayers.

Transparently yours,


"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." (Proverbs 4:23)

Your donations have been and continue to be a tremendous encouragement, as well as a source of tangible help. If you have already donated, thank you for your support. If you would like to help, click the "Donate" link below:

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Francie Taylor, Editor in Chief

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

When You Want to Run Away

Does it ever feel 
like life is ganging up 
on you so much that you want to run away?

Get in line and take a number. You would probably be #89,427,893,973. That's eighty-nine billion, four hundred twenty-seven million, eight hundred ninety-three thousand, and nine hundred seventy-three.

We may feel as though we'd like to find the escape route, but others may not know it. People ask the standard question: "How are you?" And as long as we supply the stock answer ("Fine") we can usually get away with pretending to be fine. It is incredibly easy to cover up our true feelings, leaving people completely unaware that we're entertaining fantasies of a hasty escape from the pile-up of stress. 

I laughed and shook my head when I read this in my morning Bible study:
"I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest." (Psalm 55:8)

Hey King David, wait for me!

We are clearly not the first to feel so overwhelmed with the relentless pounding of life that we're looking for an "escape." This feeling of wanting to fly away is as old as the Old Testament. 

"And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest." (Psalm 55:6)

These words were written when the Psalmist was in the midst of so much trouble that he even described it as having a physical effect on his being: "My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me." (Psalm 55:4) Yes, adversity can actually cause physical pain, as well as the obvious emotional turmoil.

But it gets deeper: Our flesh adds fear to the mix, putting us in an almost unbearable position as we play that terrible mind game called "Worst Case Scenario." Again, this is nothing new, because the Psalmist fell into this trap as well: "Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me." (Psalm 55:5)

I can almost feel the shivering. When our thoughts run wild, we are adding torment to an already tough time.

Are we able to live like this? Temporarily yes, but permanently, no. All of these emotional responses were meant to be like a winter season in life that would come, last a little while, and then cycle away.





These emotions are real and not to be taken lightly. It is not unusual during times of intense pressue to want to stay in bed with the covers pulled up to the chin. I call them "pajama days," where your pajamas are your fashion statement, and your hair stays in the position it was in when you woke up that morning.

Thankfully, this is a temporary phase and we do have relief, if we'll accept it. We even have Someone to rescue us. Never forget that God has not lost track of us just because things have gotten outrageously difficult or discouraging. Tough times rotate, but we may forget this when we're in the midst of a longer form of affliction. Still, God weaves in periods of sweet relief and we'll experience these reprieves if we're paying attention. In fact, the very trial itself may be a beautiful gift...wrapped in ugly paper.

When will we comprehend the fact that God sees differently than we see?

What we see as terrifying looks like training to Him. 

What seems perilous to us is strengthening.

What looks utterly impossible to us is actually a miracle in progress.

Think about it: when we are living comfortably, is our prayer life as intense as it is when we're living in the discomfort zone? Not usually. Does that mean we need affliction to cause us to pray? This is not always the case. Often it's more an issue of the quality of the time we're spending with God. We all tend to run to the Lord in repeated earnest and fervent prayer when we need Him most. Have you noticed by now that neediness is a regular rotation in life?

It is very wise to spend deep and abiding time with the Lord daily, especially when life is calm. That way, we're already very close to Him when the thunder of adversity shakes our world. And we can cry aloud to God anytime, day or night: "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice." (Psalm 55:17) 

He shall hear my voice.

What can you do when  you wish you could escape the burdens of your life? Cast them over to God. "Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." (Psalm 55:22)

The word "cast" in this verse is not a light term. It's not like you're gently passing the basket of burdens. Oh no. This is more like what you would do if a venomous viper latched onto your hand! You wouldn't just pass a viper and say, "Here, take this thing. I don't want it."

You'd THROW it!

You'd HURL it!

You'd FLING it!

You'd SHED that thing as fast as you could!

That's what God wants us to do with our burdens. Throw, hurl, fling, and shed! He can handle the "venomous situations." We cannot. And God adds His sustaining grace to our lives in precisely the measure needed, at exactly the right time.

We may have days when we feel like running--or flying away, but the best place to go is straight to the Lord in prayer. Watch how He rescues you. Prepare to be amazed.

"The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace." (Psalm 29:11) 


Francie Taylor

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

How to Make Your Husband Go to the Doctor

My Norman H

Our primary care physician said this to my husband:

"It's the best thing in the world that you ran that 5k in April, otherwise who knows how long it would have taken you to finally come in for a checkup."

My Norman had been complaining of pain since sometime in March, but then he'd joke about it. "This must be what it feels like to be 65," he'd say. And then we'd both agree that getting older has not been our favorite life task. I mean really--you go to bed age 25 and wake up age 65! Still, we have been active and in recent years, we've really seen the value of taking good care of these soul carriages called "bodies," so most days we feel younger than our years.

But Norman kept saying, "My bones hurt." I had never heard that before.

Hot Choc 5k
Fast-forward to the Hot Chocolate 5k, where a 59-year-old wife dragged her 65-year-old (almost 66) husband to run in the rain...in the clothes-drenching rain. Norman looked like he was having a good time, and we survived the crazy idea well enough to be able to shower and go out for brunch later that same day, so it seemed like we were going to be no worse for the wear. So it seemed.

But now Norman was saying, "My bones really hurt." When you're married to a man who never whines, this is cause for concern.

How many wives have a hard time getting your husband to the doctor? I wish I could see the raised hands joining mine. Norman's symptoms seemed urgent to me, so I called our doctor's nurse directly. When I described the places Norman said he had pain, the nurse was certain that our doctor would want to see him that same morning. 

"Can you get him here by 11:20? And don't let him drive."

It was 9:00 a.m.

My strong man Norman H had gone to work in excruciating pain, so I was going have to use this appointment as a summons. I think I heard relief in his voice when I called and said, "Dr. Koch wants to see you at 11:20am, and she said I am supposed to drive you to the appointment." I used my official "Dr. Said So" tone of voice. Mission accomplished.

Our doctor has known our family for years, and we believe that God has used her multiple times to help us in various health crises. When Norman described his "bone pain" in her office that day and pointed to locations on his body," she turned her back and started typing into her computer, but not before I saw that look on her face.

She later told me that she already suspected what she was going to find. When the results came back from the various scans, there was a large mass on the right kidney, as well as multiple suspicious spots known as "lesions" throughout the body.

My Norman has two forms of cancer: renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) and multiple myeloma (bone cancer). 

According to statistics from the American Cancer Society, Norman is one of the 1,688,780 new cancer cases estimated to be diagnosed in 2017. That means he is one of over a million and a half people who are receiving phone calls from their doctors saying, "I need you to come back into my office..."

Epic Selfie Fail

Incredibly, the "bone pains" Norman had been describing are in the very spots where the cancer has mestastasized. Norman ran that Hot Chocolate 5k race like a serious competitor, aggravating the cancer symptoms to an unbearable point, which was why the doctor called our race adventure the "best thing in the world."

So what's next? I'm grateful that we only get the answer to that question in small doses. Norman will have some very intensive medical procedures in his future, and our lives will be directed less by our planners and more by the cancer treatment schedule. Truly, only God knows "what's next." "Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." (James 4:14) Life is a vapor regardless of any diagnosis, so in reality, this did not change the number of days that Norman will live. That number was already known to God; it's just not visible on our calendar.

Pro Selfie by Norman H
So we only know what we're allowed to know, step by step, moment by moment. Next on the medical agenda is surgery, followed by aggessive treatments to battle this stage-four cancer. And we are taking this one day at a time, knowing that our lives have been dramatically altered. We don't pretend to understand all of this, but we trust God. His goodness is not changed by a diagnosis.

We have unfortunately had to cancel the remainder of the conference calendar for this year, and there may be additional changes that we'll need to make here at Keep the Heart as we focus on navigating our "rough patch," but we will trust God to guide us. As we've said before, God is never surprised by the events of life. 

We may count our age in years, but Scripture reminds us that we actually have numbered "days."  "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." (Psalm 90:12) We deeply desire to live our numbered days wisely. Pray for our entire family as we embark on this journey.

By the way, if your husband has symptoms that concern you, make your husband go to the doctor. And if it's been a while since you've had a checkup, make an appointment for yourself, too.

"Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God." (Psalm 42:11)

Pic by Taniya's Photography

A very important P.S.
If I sat in front of my computer and replied to every note until I was 85 years old, I wouldn't put a dent in the Facebook Messages Inbox. Please, PLEASE do not message me on Facebook. Keep the Heart is already flooded responding to our daily business emails, so we simply cannot reply to private notes (try to imagine what it looks like to have hundreds of messages and then maybe you'll stop typing). Please honor this request.

If you have a question related to your order, write to us at [email protected]. Customer service will respond, but there may be delays due to the changes in the health of our Norman H. We will do our best to keep operations running.

Finally, while we know that we have many treatment options, we are not seeking medical advice or alternative medical advice from the Facebook community. We have access to all of this and more, so please, PLEASE do not attempt to contact us with remedies. Honoring these requests would be such a kindness. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Run with Patience in the Rain

I asked Norman just as he was leaving for work one morning, five measly weeks prior to race day, "Honey, could we do a 5k in April?" I know that he answers quickly when he's on his way out the door. (Translation: He only half-heard me.) 

"A 5k, huh? Okay." But it wasn't the usual "okay." It was the long "Okaaaayyyy" that Norman uses when he's wondering what his wife is plotting this time. I am the spontaneous one in our marriage. He is...


A few days later, I handed him his new race swag (you know, the fancy logo shirt that makes it look like you're a runner even if you're not), and then announced, "We need new shoes. Our old tennies won't do."

Norman H
Armed with large coupons, we bought new running shoes and were soon decked out like wannabe-runners. I was training in earnest, following a chart printed from the Hot Chocolate 15k/5k official racing website. Things were coming along fairly well for someone who hasn't run competitively since her hair was in pony tails. Norman didn't always feel like training, so he joined in now and then. I had this thought as I observed my Norman's casual attitude towards race prep: "He is going to be burnt toast on race day." 

That's what I thought.


Francie runs for chocolate
Race day arrived, and it brought a thunderstorm with it. Norman heard the rain pounding on the roof and said, "I'm not running in this. I'll end up getting sick!" It was two hours before race time when he made this announcement.

"Well, we've paid for it, so I'm running. You can drop me off and be the race photographer," I said with resolve. I really wanted to run this race together, but oh well. I laced up my five-week-old shoes and rode the short distance to the race. Norman parked the car and met me at the starting gate: "I've changed my mind. I'm going to run." 

Team Taylor for the chocolate!

The Bible has plenty of "run the race" verses. The parallels between running and living the Christian life are inescapable:

A race may have an unexpected outcome. "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." (Ecclesiastes 9:11) 

One would assume that the race would always be won by those who trained for it, but "time and chance" can change that. I trained as diligently as possible, but I came in 116th-place in my age category! My Norman trained when he felt like it, then took off like a 6-foot-four cougar and I never saw him again until I crossed the finish line...several minutes behind him. We never know how a person is going to finish until the end of their race.

With Patience

A race requires patience. "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us," (Hebrews 12:1) 

Running is placing one foot in front of the other, over and over again. This is so much like the repetitive nature of the ministry. We lather, rinse, and repeat our various duties every week. It would be easy to become weighted down with cares and distractions (life is so full of them). If you feel like quitting, confide in someone who will be your spiritual "cheerleader." It did me a world of good to look out into the crowd of spectators and see my sister Janelle and brother-in-love Dennis, cheering us on. Running with patience is easier with support. 
Sis Janelle

That Ye May Obtain

A race has a prize at the end. "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain." (1 Corinthians 9:24) 

The top ten are an elite group in any race, making the rest of us noble participants. My Norman told me how his head shifted into high gear once he realized that he was in a real race. The "old athlete" was called into service and he ran to win. Amazingly, he came in 9th place for the 65-69-year-old men's category! (And this was the man who wasn't going to run. I'm still saying "humph" over that!) Are we running our race as Christians with real goals of honoring the Lord, sharing the gospel, and serving others with our lives, or are we just strolling towards the finish line? 

Hot Chocolate prizes
This race was yet another experience that had many scriptural similarities. I see lessons everywhere: in the garden, by the ocean, and now, on the running course.

At the end of the race, the runners were handed large mugs filled with hot chocolate. They also gave us hot fudge fondue, giant marshmallows, bananas, and Rice Krispy bars for dunking in the fondue. The proceeds from the race will go to the Ronald McDonald House, providing housing for families with a hospitalized child who have to travel far from home for the hospital stay.

Running for a cause is a "work of heart." It is also a picture of life in the ministry. Run with patience.

"My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth." (1 John 3:18)

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