Discipline. Hm. This is not a word I’m very well acquainted with. It’s true that there are many disciplined people around me and it’s true that I desire to be disciplined, but when it actually comes to BEING disciplined, I’m not.

There’s so much about the practice of this word that deserves respect. Power to the people that are naturally disciplined, and even more power to the people that have taught themselves to be such. I envy and admire each of you.

I tend to be more of a free spirit, more go-with-the-flow. I easily convince myself (although I truly believe it to an extent) that life this way is so much more fun and relaxed. I convince myself that some of the greatest of joys come from my easy-going manner. And yes, in some ways that’s true. But don’t we all eventually learn in life that so many more of the greatest of joys come from hard work and tough situations. When we come out on the other side, that’s joy. That is something to celebrate. I can’t really celebrate that something random happened to me and I took advantage of it, but I could celebrate working diligently towards a goal and achieving it.

I’m currently training for a half marathon and participating in the 10 days. Both are about bringing clean water to the thirsty, but before today, I never really thought about any deeper similarities. So as I’m sitting at my desk, plotting ways to get some energy with my co-worker and ironically the founder of the 10 Days, I felt like I was dying inside. At first, it seemed like I was dying of exhaustion. But later, I realized I’m dying to my cheap desires. I’m dying to the habit within myself that says that I can have a drink of whatever whenever I want. I’m dying to the habit of relying on caffeine to wake me up when I’m dragging through the day. I’m dying to the fact that when you get right down to it, I’m spoiled.

Now I can’t help that I was born where I was and I can’t help that certain things are social norms here, but I can help the fact that a little discipline and self-denial brings me closer to the story of those that go without.

As I said, I’m also training for a half marathon. And as I mentioned in a previous post, I am NOT a runner. I have had to have discipline on so many levels already and training has hardly begun! Twice a week, I wake up at 5am to go run before work. I love my sleep and although I appreciate being awake early once I’m up, I do not like actually getting up. No sir, mornings are not for me. But in those wee hours of the morning, I have found that the discipline has led to greater reflection on both myself and the reason I run. Sacrificing my sleep seems so futile to the bigger picture – people are dying in Ethiopia because they haven’t had rain in 5 years. 5 years, people! I’m sure they’re sacrificing way more than sleep. Oh spoiled me.

I’ve also been learning some serious mental determination with this whole running shebang. One foot in front of the other was my motto this morning, and how true that is for so many other parts of our lives.

So I’m learning about greater joy. Joy that comes from hard work, disciplined dedication, and a healthy perspective of my life compared to so much of the world. I encourage you to practice discipline today in some way or deny yourself something that you take for granted – may it produce greater joy on the other side.

I’m not the kind of person to push myself to do things beyond my known limits. I tend to stick to the things I know that I can do. I mean, there are times that I’m not sure if I can do something, but it pretty much is at the same level of other things I’ve accomplished so I move forward knowing that there is a VERY good chance that I’ll complete the mission. But even that is playing it safe. I don’t challenge my limits for a couple of reasons. Fear. Competitiveness. Self-preservation.

I am afraid of failing…afraid at how that will reflect on me. I forget that failing means that I’ve tried and if you’ve tried something, often you’re ahead of most people anyway. Failing also means that you’re one step closer to succeeding and that you’ve probably grown and learned something great about yourself along the way. But failing hurts, so nobody wants to do it. I don’t want to fail.

I’m extremely competitive. I can’t tell you the number of times my mom told me, “We’re never going bowling again since you can’t just have fun!” after a ridiculous too-old-to-be-throwing-this-kind-of-fit tantrum because I didn’t win at bowling. Hello?! What 8 year old wins at bowling?! My expectations of myself were (are) entirely too high. My brother and I are still banned from playing monopoly together in my mom’s presence…something about her not wanting to see me slamming doors and yelling after my brother offers the 10th worst-trade-ever that no one in their right mind would accept. All that to say, I’m competitive and don’t like to lose. So trying something new…something beyond my limits…puts me at serious risk of losing. And well – no one wants to see that.

We all practice some sort of self-preservation; whether we hide behind a façade of who we really are or we just use humor to cover up the pain, something in us makes us look out for ourselves and do whatever seems necessary to save face. For me, I just don’t try things sometimes. That’s my medication for keeping up the appearance that I’m awesome. Because we all know that I am. Because…well…I only do things that contribute to that view of who Stacie is. Ha.

About a month ago, I committed to push myself beyond my limits. I’m jumping into something that (seriously) I’m not sure I can do.

I’m going to run a half-marathon, people.

Ugh.

I’m so excited. No, really. I am.

For the first time in my life, I am pushing myself to do something I honestly am not sure that I can accomplish. I HATE running – I do it occasionally as part of a workout, but I’ve never run more than 3 miles. And now I’m committing to 13.1 miles. That’s 10.1 more than normal (actually not normal, my max)…that’s 10.1 more miles of angst. 10.1 miles of doubt. 10.1 miles of asking, “Why in the WORLD did I sign up for this?!” 10.1 miles of wondering if I’m insane. And really, 13.1 miles of questioning so much of what I think about myself.

But here’s the truth of the matter and the reason that I actually…am…very…excited. For one, I’m pushing myself, like I said, beyond my limits and that finish line Jan. 15 is going to serve as a testament to me that I can do things I never thought I could or would do. I’ll always be able to look back and say, “See, Stac, you did that when you didn’t think you could…you can do this”. The other part – and probably the part that will hit me most while actually running the race – is that I’m doing this for the 884 million people out there that don’t have access to clean water. I’m running for Team Living Water to raise money for and awareness (even within myself) of the realities so many across the world face: young kids missing out on education because they have to walk insane distances every day just to get water that isn’t even that clean or healthy and women who miss out on raising their families or making money through work because they have to carry at least 40 lbs of water a day to provide for their families (and the water they carry is often the very thing that is causing their kids to die). This is the reality and this is what makes me want to run.

This is going to be tough for me. The actual run. The training. All of it. But I will run for water.

My little sister, Audrey Lee McGuire, is graduating from UT today, and I couldn’t be prouder of her accomplishment and who she has become.  Growing up, we were the sisters that played together in the creek bed behind our house, built forts in the woods (OK, really, we just took over an already existing one), tried our hand at can-and-string phones (which by the way, did not work for us), and listened to Spice Girls and Hanson incessantly.  But we were also the siblings that fought worse than cats and dogs…and of course, it was ALWAYS her fault. ;) I remember someone telling me that when we “grew up” we’d be great friends.  I disbelieved that vehemently; I mean, seriously…how could I be friends with someone who sprayed windex in my eye?!

But here we are today, and I would gladly claim her as one of my dearest friends.  Of all my siblings, we have the most life experiences together, good and bad.  But regardless of what the times were like, they bind us with a common thread of understanding and familiarity.  She’s the one I can sit in silence with and be totally OK.  She’s also the one I marvel at most – sometime I can just sit back and watch her and think about what an amazing young lady she has become.  She is fun, crazy, serious, thoughtful, creative, driven, feisty and free-spirited.  I am constantly amazed by her.  I mean – she’s my little sister…the one that would skip school by telling her mom she had a horrible stomach ache and then when her mom walked away, I’d catch her jumping wildly on her bed…the one that sometimes had tough times with friends at school…the one that was always head-strong, knowing what she wanted.  She still has those qualities – fun and spastic, vulnerable, determined.  But these qualities have blossomed into true beauty.  My little sister is a real-live adult and the things that made her my annoying little sister are the very things that make me love her fiercely today.  She has an amazing life ahead of her.

There are so many things about her that I could brag on and so many things that I’m impressed with, but I’ll just end this by saying:

Audi,

You are beautiful, inside and out.  Everything about you, makes you you – do not forsake who you are.  Strive for greatness but be content with where life takes you.  Know that you have abundant talent in so many areas; use it for good; make the world better because of your presence.  Trust your instincts, take chances, don’t fear your future, love yourself no matter what.  I am one of your biggest fans and love you dearly.  I am honored to be your sister.

Love, Stacie

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Mood: Proud
Last Workout: 4 days ago
Meals Cooked Recently: Spaghetti
Current Book:  When Helping Hurts, about to start Water for Elephants

Hey all.  Yep, I’m still here.  I still exist.  But what a crazy past couple of months it has been.  If I blogged every time I wanted to (granted, I didn’t have the emotional energy), you all would have been bombarded by a whole roller coaster of crazy emotions.  Luckily, you were spared and now, you get the condensed version. (But beware, it’s still long)

Since high school, I’ve had this passionate draw towards other cultures and specifically Europe.  I was blessed to travel to Germany on two short-term trips and then I got to live there for a year between high school and college.  Well, that only poured gasoline on the fire in my heart to reside in and love on the people of Europe.  After my first year of college in Texas, I had to get away (staying put for too long is not one of my strong suits, I’ve come to discover) so I went to live in Costa Rica for a month to study Spanish – great language experience, not so great living experience.  I went back to school and conveniently, my major required me to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking, European country (good planning on my part, eh?), so I trekked off to Spain my junior year of college for a semester.  All of my stints in Europe were heavily sprinkled with opportunities to travel the continent (and even to Africa) and I loved every minute of it.  Something about traveling makes me feel alive, and parts of me I didn’t know existed were beautifully revealed during my time in Europe.  In some ways, I feel like I am the best version of me when I am living over there.

So that’s the back story to the past tumultuous few months.

Since first dating, Kurt and I have discussed the possibility of us living overseas one day.  This was something that wasn’t so much a goal (as that seems like an intentional decision) as it was an expected and natural path for me.  Perhaps it was more of a goal for Kurt, to keep his wife happy. ;)  But soon, my dream became our dream and we fully expected to be heading to Europe after our first few years of marriage.  Last summer, things started lining up for us to possibly move to Prague to work alongside a friend of ours at a youth hostel.  We posted pics on our bulletin boards to keep our eyes on the prize and researched places to live and the Czech culture.  We started conversing by email with our friend who had recently moved his life there…these emails moved from “yea, totally…someday we should definitely do that” to “Hey, how do you feel about us coming over in the Spring” to “come on!  We’d love to have you”.  Then in October, we got an email that seemed to come out of left field: “We can’t really guarantee you anything.  Perhaps you should look elsewhere”.

Now what?

Literally, conversations about moving to Prague with this guy had been happening for almost 4 years (granted, many were with a “What if one day…” kind of tone), but still…we had kind of banked on this.  So we were hit with bump-in-the-road #1.  Honestly, though, after the initial shock, our response was excitement.  It was as if we had limited ourselves to hostel work in Prague for so long, that we never even considered other possibilities.  Starting fresh off our new-found excitement, I camped myself in our backyard one day with a picnic blanket, a notebook, and my computer and under the shade of our pine trees, I researched my heart out.  I googled, contacted friends, stalked, and googled some more.  I found some really amazing organizations we could travel with, some really off the wall things we could do, and even came up with my own hare-brained idea of traveling on our own, volunteering at a different place every month all over Europe.  After all the dreaming and scheming, we came across an opportunity that truly put a fire in our bellies.  So many things seemed to line up: our passions, our pasts, our talents, our connections, our education.  The crazy thing was that the deadline to apply was in 5 days.  As much as we wanted to apply that day, that minute, we decided to wait it out over the weekend, pray about it, and seek wise council.  After the weekend, every light was green and we went for it.  We soon got an interview which required us to head to Atlanta, GA and off we went!  We had to drive 28-hours round-trip and attend our interview all within 3 days.  It was quite the road-trip, but a fun experience nonetheless.  We left the interview completely clueless as to how the interviewer felt about us, but we were pretty convinced we were shoe-ins.  The guy told us we’d hear back within 2 weeks but we could be getting on a plane as soon as 10 days.  So we returned home and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Let me tell you, it is really hard to live in the present when you’re waiting for your future.  And even harder when you expect to be moving across the world, but aren’t guaranteed that.

Finally, almost 2 months later and many attempted follow-ups on our part, we got a “no” at the wee hour of 6am.  At first, probably because I’m not very awake in the morning, it didn’t hit me as hard as I thought it would.  The rest of that day though, it kept hitting harder and harder.  And then the month following, it felt as if it would hit me constantly with the force of hurricane winds.  Always hitting, never knowing from which direction it would strike.  There were so many reasons for my reaction.  Here are just a few:

  • I had put entirely too much confidence in a process that warranted no confidence at all and was a gamble from the start.
  • I didn’t trust that God had my future…I look at a lot of God-fearing people that have it rough and I know that we’re not promised an always happy, dream-like life.  For some it happens, for some it doesn’t.
  • I was afraid that if we didn’t go now, we never would.  I even told Kurt at one point that I was scared he wouldn’t go if there were any sacrifice to be made (kids, house, etc.)…we were as free as we’ll ever be at that point, and I didn’t trust that Kurt would go to the ends of the Earth for me.  Literally.
  • At the time (and sometimes still), the “no” felt like the death of a dream. Almost a life-long dream…basically the first dream I had of my own, as an adult.  So much of my identity was wrapped up in my love for the nations and unknowingly, I had begun to take pride in the fact that I was “the girl that was going to move to Europe someday with her husband”.

I think it is safe to say, that emotionally, this was one of the lowest points of my life.  Dramatic, I know.  But true.  The crazy thing is, that even in the midst of seeming silence from God, He was there.  Working away.  And it wasn’t until I fully surrendered my own control over life and my emotions that I was able to see that and was able to allow God to work through this crazy situation.

So after the news, I continued to put one foot in front of the other…I was fragile to say the least, but I think I did a decent job at moving forward as best as I could.  I took a job as a nanny and was infinitely blessed by caring for others and being cared for by the family.  We walked through some tough stuff together, from both parties, and sustained each other through tears and laughter.  Most importantly for me, though, was how encouraged I was by their faith…when everything seemed to be falling apart around them, they continued to pray fervently and trust in the Lord’s goodness.

After struggling through my own inward-focused, faith-lacking mire, I decided to cling to the small amount of faith I had left and which was only really there because of this beautiful family I was working for (you see, I hadn’t lost faith in God, just in His work in my life)…I decided I’d use that nugget of faith, every last ounce, to commit to a day of fasting.  This in and of itself is remarkable in that I have a pretty good relationship with food and don’t like to give it up if I don’t have to ;).  In fact, I had only really fasted one other time in my life and it wasn’t for myself.  So, fasting for myself was foreign and it felt awkward.  I didn’t really want to do it, but somewhere in me, I knew it would be good for me.  I knew, in a strange way, that this is where healing would begin.

Crazy enough, I unexpectedly got the day off which allowed me to really spend time studying, reading, praying, and listening (and not eating, ha).  I had decided that morning that I would end the fast at 4pm, so I had a pretty full day of really honest time of reflecting inwardly and putting my thoughts and concerns before the Lord.  It was so good.  I was feeling so refreshed by it all and knew that no matter what, God was good and I was going to be OK.  Even crazier, at 3:48 (or something like that), just a few minutes before the end of my fast, I got an email from an organization that I had dreamed of working for for years and to whom I had submitted an application a couple weeks before.  They wanted to interview me!  It is unreal how surrendering the things we hold so tightly to ends up being the best thing for us and so often, the very path to that thing.

Let’s fast-forward (tired of reading yet?)…I now have that job and am absolutely blown away by how much I love what I am doing and for the first time in a while, I feel like the puzzle pieces of who I am and what I am doing fit perfectly.  If I had two dreams in life, it would be to live overseas with my husband and to work for an international non-profit…I may have had to give up one but I got the other, and I am so happy.

I won’t say there aren’t still days that I want so badly to be living overseas; there are days that I still wonder just what God was up to in allowing our hearts and desires to be so Europe-focused for so long.  Honestly, I don’t get it all.  But I’ve learned a few things from all of this:

  • I know now, though, that God is good in all things and even though I don’t understand it all and can’t even begin wrapping my head around the theology, I trust that He is good.  That’s my foundation and that’s what I’ll cling to.
  • I can’t make judgments about what Kurt will and will not do in the future.  I can only base my assessments on the now and what has already happened.  Based on that, Kurt would literally give up his life for me.  I love him so dearly and pray that I would do the same.
  • My identity should not be the things I am doing or the things I will do, but rather, I should find my identity, joy, and contentment in who I am and who God is making me to be.  Nothing else.  I must rest in that and that alone, and my pride should not be in myself, but I should boast in the Lord and what He has done in me and in the world.

I’m realizing recently that God has to peel some people’s feet from the ground to get them to go, but He is literally gluing my feet to the ground to get me to stay and I know that I’ll grow in mighty ways because of it.

If you want to check out where I’m working, go here: www.water.cc.  It is amazing.  The organization I work with is doing incredible things all across the world and the people I work with are phenomenal.

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Mood: Thankful
Last Workout: 2 days ago – long walk with the hubby
Meals Cooked Recently: Lasagna and a rockin’ cheesecake
Current Book:  When Helping Hurts

Songs. Of all genres.  Sometimes words.  Sometimes just the music itself.  Sunshine.  A smile.  One step forward.  Coffee.  Breathing.  Sweating.  After working hard for it.  Not just because I live in Texas.  Holding a child.  Serving others.  Putting myself aside for a while.  Another step.  Yelling.  The permission to admit my unhappiness.  Tears.  The necessary and the unexpected.  Not necessarily opposites.   Yet another step.  A friend seeing my pain.  Good food.  Excessiveness.  Community.  Prayer.  Steps.Steps.Steps.  A hearty hug.  A cozy blanket and a good book.  Time.  Maybe the best medicine.  Worship.  Even when I don’t want to.  More steps forward.

 

 

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Mood: Cautious but renewed
Last Workout: Today, ran 2 miles
Meals Cooked Recently: Nothing of late…sad, sad day
Current Book:  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and JUST finished Fearless by Max Lucado

I just spent a day with a good friend that I’ve known for what feels like forever.  We lost touch over the years and then a while back reconnected, and despite the time apart, being around her feels like home.  Like the kind of home where you’re comfortable in your skin, content with who you are, and settled in the knowledge that this person knows you, all of you, and still likes you…in fact, still chooses to hang out with you!  There’s an ease, a grand sense of not having to try, and that’s meaningful.  In fact, that’s huge.

This friend of mine is loud and boisterous.  She loves to laugh and is a passionate woman.  She’s passionate in the highs and passionate in the lows.  She loves her kids with an inspiring intensity, and they obviously adore her.  She’ll tell you like it is and she’ll be straight with you on how she’s feeling about this or that.  There’s no guessing with her.  It’s all just laid out there.  It turns out, though, that she feels like a lot of people don’t appreciate her for who she is.  As she puts it, “People are overwhelmed by my personality”.

Well, I’m not.  I find it totally refreshing.  Her realness is like coming up for air.  In fact, its like when you’re a kid and you and your friends go underwater in the pool and try to have conversations.  You really have NO idea what the other is saying, but you just keep doing it because it seems fun.  This friend, though, is like coming out of the water and actually hearing the other person, really seeing their expressions clearly, not blurry through the refracting light of the water.  Now that you know what the other is saying, you can actually move forward and get things accomplished (like going to get popsicles from mom) because you’re really communicating now.

I am so ready for realness.  Society seems so set on “keeping it together” and “putting on a show” that we’ve lost reverence for vulnerability and  forgotten the beauty of laying our real and raw emotions out in front of those we love.  When we’re asked, “How are you?”, why do we always respond with good?  Even when we’re not?  Even when we’re so far beyond the verge of tears that it is truly a miracle we’re keeping it together?  Even when we’ve got so much on our hearts that it feels like an elephant is doing jumping jacks on our chest?  Why can’t we be real?  When I ask how you are, tell me.  I’m asking as someone who cares and as someone who could care less about tears.  Don’t let me find out from someone else that you’re not OK.  And why can’t we be real in the normal stuff either?  Or the good stuff?  Why can’t we jump up and down in the streets when we’re over-the-moon excited?  Because people will look at us like we’re freaks.  We’ve got to keep a certain veil of sanity over our true emotions.

And I’m ready for realness when it comes to being who we are.  Be you and I’ll be me.  I’ll stop trying to be like her if you’ll stop trying to be like them.  Maybe we can stop trying to put ourselves in the “normal” box and just be.  Be.  Be the loud and boisterous girl that not everyone knows what to do with.  Be the quiet person that everyone wonders about….eventually, they’ll figure out who you are.  You don’t have to force that by being someone you’re not.  Be the person that knows what they want and what they enjoy outside of the context of everyone else.  Be the person who pursues those things despite what others think.  Be the person that takes a chance and says, “This is me.  Take it or leave it.”…and a lot of times, people will actually take it because it is comforting and refreshing to be near realness.

Be real and take the pressure off yourself.  Cry.  Laugh.  Shout.  Jump.  Yell.  Whisper.  Listen to yourself.  Listen to your body and your emotions.  Get them in sync.

The thing about being real is that it gives those around you permission to be real too.  And just like having a real conversation above water when you’re a kid, when you’re both real, you can move forward and get things accomplished.  Real things.  Life-changing, important things.

 

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Mood: Nervous but thrilled
Last Workout: 2 days ago (but I plan on going later today!)
Meals Cooked Recently: Spaghetti Goulash, Turkey dinner!
Current Book: Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist

 

Even though we’ve been lingering in the 90’s around here (degress that is, not decade), last Friday was very fall-esque for this dear household.  As we’re living in The Woodlands right now, most of the trees around us are evergreens, so “fall” doesn’t really show its gorgeous, glowing face…even in the Texas sense.  However, I believe that we have the ONE tree in all of The Woodlands that is shedding its summer leaves with all the energy it can muster.  It is DONE with warm weather despite dear old Mother Nature’s wishes.  And that tree….well, it is right over our drive way, so there is really no way of avoiding the fallen leaves.  Truly.

You see that big pile of sticks way back there?  OK, maybe it looks like a small pile, but I swear, it was sizeable.  Well, that was my puny contribution to the day’s yard work.  Kurt worked and worked and worked at blowing the leaves this way and that until they were in nice neat piles (and might I say, it took everything in me not to just jump on them…the concrete might have been part of my swayed decision).  In the midst of that, he asked me if I’d put the leaves into trash cans and trash bags.  Well, that was the ONE part that I did not want to do.  So, I watched him with the blower for a while (secretly wanting his job instead), put some (SOME) leaves into a trash can, then moseyed inside to make chicken pot pie!  I tuned in to my favorite Pandora station (of which Kurt thoroughly dislikes), poured myself a glass of wine, and began preparing for my first ever, quite domestic, pot pie.

Then I looked out the window and saw this…

Ummm….???  Maybe I should have stayed outside.  Yes, the pile of leaves is smaller, but I thought THEY were supposed to be in the trash can.  Not my husband.  Hmmm.  Oh well, keep cooking!  And voila….

Isn’t she a beaut? Yes, that’s a “K” for Kopczynski and a heart as proof of my undying love for Kurticus.  And if I say so myself, it was sooooo yummy!!  Check the recipe out for some scrum-diddly-umptious-ness! (I will say, I’m not sure I’ve even ever had Chicken Pot Pie, but the hubby has and he said it was LEGIT…he also said “Daaaaaang! That’s one of the best meals you’ve ever made!”…and well, I think I’m a pretty good cook, so that says a lot.)

 

 

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Mood: Excited!!
Last Workout: 4 days ago
Meals Cooked Recently: Chicken Pot Pie (duh), Grilled Chicken and Veggies
Current Book: Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist