Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sometimes I start over

Photo by K. Praslowicz via Flickr
 In high school I ran track for several years, until the school dropped it for lack of interest. I was no future Olympian, in fact I'm pretty sure that I finished dead last in just about every single race, but I loved to run. And so I ran, in the evenings, in the summer, out into the country on the gravel roads past the Amish farms and the cows in the field. It was my quiet place; no demands, no expectations, just me, the cows, the occasional farm dog and the sweat on my back. Bliss.

But at some point I stopped running and I don't remember when or why. I just know that I stopped for several years until I picked it up again in the later years of college. Again I ran, just me, back in my quiet place with the rolling hills and the different gravel roads and new cows and new dogs to chase me. And then the pain in my knees and I gave it up for years, trying to pick it up again every now and then but quitting in defeat. Telling myself I didn't need it anyway, walking was just fine and only crazy people ran. But deep inside I was jealous. And I missed it.

I started running again this summer. Crazy, really, that at my highest weight ever somehow I finally managed to run without pain in my knees. I looked up the Couch to 5k plan, loaded some music on my mp3 player and off I went. Weeks of work and sweat and thinking I must be crazy, but by Halloween I ran a 5k. And by 'run' I mean propelled my body forward in a manner slightly faster than a walk, but just barely. I took comfort in the John Bingham quote, "If you run, you are a runner."

This week I'm starting over. Partly because between various illnesses I've gotten lax over the last two months. But also because I'm tired of putzing along at my near-walk pace and hearing everyone else talk about their 9, 10, or 11 minute miles. I want to be faster, and the best way I can think of to do that is to go back to the basics, back to what helped me to run again in the first place. Back to the Couch to 5k, only faster.

Sometimes I think my faith is a lot like running. (Well, Paul did compare it to a race, after all.) I'm going along and it's all good and just me and God and the open road. Bliss. And then life gets in the way and it kind of fizzles out and I remember the faith that I USED to have but it just isn't the same. Maybe it gets renewed sometimes, and maybe it gets knocked around a little and I get bruised and tired and don't really know quite why I'm sticking to these beliefs. Sometimes it hurts and I look at those heroes of the faith and decide that I'm happy not paying that price because maybe they are just a little bit crazy. But deep inside I'm jealous that they are so sure. Deep inside I miss it.

And so I pick myself up off the couch and I go back to the beginning. I strip away all of the extra stuff that gets tangled in my brain and I go back to the basics. Back to "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief." (Mark 9:24) Back to "It is by grace you have been saved, through faith." (Ephesians 2:8) Each time I go back I'm stronger. Each time I go back I learn a little bit more. Each time I go back I race just a little bit better.

Sometimes it's good to start over.

Photo via Flickr

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lent, finally.

Photo by Jarod Carruthers via Flickr
It is 11:00 in the morning and I've just stepped onto the scale for the third time today. There was the early morning weigh-in, the post-breakfast weigh-in, and the post-workout (and half a bagel with cream cheese) weigh in. None of which varied wildly from each other but all of which produced a number that was decidedly NOT to my liking.

And there, in the bathroom with that ugly number staring back at me, I got it. That little whisper-voice I've been waiting to hear for weeks. "You need to give this up for Lent."

I know, I'm a few days late. But you see, I've been waiting. Waiting for God to tell me that thing I needed to give up or add on. And nothing seemed quite right.

Chocolate? Sugar? Both good things to give up, but I knew they were wrong for me. Wrong because I couldn't make my heart be right to do it. Wrong because they'd put the focus onto myself and how many pounds I might lose if I gave them up. It would be a diet exercise, not a surrender one.

But this, this is the ultimate surrender for me. Taking the focus off of myself, off of trying, off of believing that I am no more than that number that stares back at me every day. Isn't that the purpose of Lent? To stop focusing on ourselves and turn our focus to God? To die to self? Of all the ways I can think of to die to self, this is probably the most difficult for me.

So I'm stepping off the scale for the next 40 (or so) days. And I'm not putting it away (because I always know where it is) and I'm not asking my husband to hide it (because he's really bad at hiding it). I want it there staring at me every morning as a reminder that when I am focused on myself so intently I lose my focus on God. When all I see are my short-comings and the things that I want to work on in my life I miss seeing the things that God wants to work on in my life. I start to think that what I do for myself is more important than God working in me and through me. I forget that my weight does not determine my worth in God's eyes.

Photo by Josh DiMauro via Flickr

Can I admit that right now I'm scared nearly to tears? Can I confess that I'd rather God told me to give up something else? Can I be honest enough to say I want to ignore this whisper as a figment of my imagination?

This is where I'm broken. This is where I need a resurrection.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pinterest, and a love song

Pinterest. That great scrapbook of the internet where we go to plan our dreams of houses, weddings, children and a 5-star gourmet kitchen. You can learn a lot about people by spending a few minutes looking at what they pin. This one dreams of urban homesteading. That one loves all things old-fashioned and romantic. Another wants to travel the world. Edgy, soft, bold, quirky...all of these come through when you look at what interests people.

Pithy quotes and bumper sticker philosophy abound. Sometimes I see something that I agree with wholeheartedly and pin it to an inspiration board.

From the lovely elembee.com via Pinterest
Sometimes I see things that just make me roll my eyes and move on because of the superficiality, misspelling, or really poor theology.

And then there are pins that I see that irritate me so much I decide to devote a blog post to them. Why? Well, because I CAN!

This is one of those pins.

via Pinterest
Oh, this bugs me. I suppose it particularly bugs me because it is the time of year where we are told that love must be summed up in grand gestures of flowers, cards that cost almost as much as flowers used to cost, and jewelry. Because she doesn't know you love her if you don't buy her something from THAT store.

Yes, in order for love to be worth it there must be passion! It must be superlative! Big! Exciting!

Hogwash! (Because I use old fashioned words like that.)

Do you know what love looks like? Love looks like me, waking my husband the other morning and asking "Can you get the boys up and ready, because I'm not feeling well at all." And him doing it. Just getting up and doing it because I asked.

Love looks like a kiss goodbye in the morning and me truly hoping and caring that he has a good day.

Love looks like him when the first was tiny, holding him in the middle of the night so that I could sleep.

Love looks like him trying to find the right words to tell me how much he loves me and always worrying that he's not good enough at saying it. And I would take ten fumbling words from his heart over the most eloquent poetry any day.

It doesn't always look mad and passionate. Some days it looks like just getting by, just putting food on the table and getting the kids to bed. And if I ran away looking for mad and passionate I would miss the truth. And the truth is this: real love is extraordinary in ALL its forms. Never think that just because it doesn't look like a Hollywood screenplay that it isn't real love. Never think that just because your love story doesn't have fireworks and your toes don't tingle that it means your love is less than perfect. Look at your love on your own terms, not what someone else tells you it should be.

In the end we all find our own definition of what extraordinary love is. And I wouldn't trade this love for all the world.