Living life on purpose: I can’t, but God can

A few Sundays ago, our pastor gave a very inspiring message in his continuing series on living life on purpose.  He used the story of Esau & Jacob and how Esau gave his birthright away for a simple bowl of stew.  Stupid, huh?  Yet, I do that all the time.  I give away my life, my health, my longevity for brief moments of gratification.  As I learn to live life on purpose, to find faith and fitness, I want to quit giving away my birthright.  The ability to live a long, healthy, fit life, filled with loving relationships and satisfying work. A life filled with appreciation of beauty and the ability to enjoy it.  That’s my birthright.  It’s yours, too.  
I read an article in Runner’s World this month that surprisingly melded into Dr. Clark’s message.  It was on developing a mantra to help you when you are running distances, or trying to overcome a difficult stage in any run/race.  Many champion runners do this and some of their inspirational mantras were listed.  The article encourages you to develop your own mantra, and even offers some guidelines and a little chart for developing the best mantra for you.  I’ve played with the chart a little and came up with some lame ones, like: “Be strong, run long,” and “Be fierce, feel bold,” but nothing really seemed to click.  I loved the truth of Sean Downey’s, “Fast or slow, it hurts just the same,” but didn’t feel terribly inspired by it.  Well, maybe a little.  Anyway, Dr. Clark had us all repeat a very simple truth the morning of the Esau message.  “I can’t, but God can.”  

Now, this flies slightly in the face of the Runner’s World article, using negativity about self, but it is exactly the mantra that fits my running.  Because, one of the truths that dawned on me after so many years of starting and stopping running programs is that I’ve always tried to run in my own strength.  I’ve never actually let God have every area of my life, choosing to greedily hold on to the areas that I didn’t think He really had time for.  Yeah, I know.  Sometimes my stupidity amazes even me.  But, getting older really does have its benefits, not the least of which is getting wiser.   Thank God.  
So, for the last couple of years, as I’ve re-established a running program, I’ve learned to let God do what God does.  Be my Strength.  Be my Discipline.  Because I really can’t do it by myself.  I’ve tried.  More than once.  And there are still times when that  control freak inside me rears her ugly head and tries to make me think I can do it on my own.  Those are the times I lose motivation, struggle with every run, find excuses not to run, and focus on every ache and pain.  
This year, this race, this training program, this life.  It’s all about what I can do through Christ, who strengthens me.  I’m excited because I’ve finally realized that I can’t, but God can.  Amen and amen!  

My Story

If you’re going to invest any time in reading this, you may want to know a little of my story.  It’s your story.  It’s your neighbor’s story. It’s my mother’s story.  I’m just working to change the ending of mine a little.  
I was not an athletic kid.  I was a book worm, loved (and still love) to read, and would rather curl up with a good book than do anything that would require sweat.  I went through a “chubby” phase in junior high, but quickly outgrew that in high school and was thin enough.  Actually, a lot thinner than I thought I was at the time.  Anyway, this isn’t a blog about teen-age angst.  It’s a journal of my journey as a middle-aged (gasp) woman, on her way to 50, in search of fitness.  
My 20’s passed with only sporadic efforts at fitness.  Aerobics were the calling card of the day & I’m not the most coordinated dancer around.  But, I enjoyed the camaraderie of other young women, then other young mothers as we shared our lives and got to know each other.  
When I entered my 30’s, I had yo-yo’d as much as the next person, weight up one year, down the next.  I still was focused on a number on the scale, a size in my clothes.  I wasn’t worried about my health.  After a very stressful personal time in my life, I began to run/walk to relieve stress.  It worked, and, bingo, it also helped with my weight issues.  The problem was, that like everything I start, I thought I had to go all out.  I was going to be fast, thin, win races.  So, I did what I see so many young women do, I over trained.  I ran too much, too hard, tried to be faster than my body really wanted me to be, and I ended up plagued with injuries and losing the desire to run because it hurt and wasn’t fun.  So, I ran less and less.  I ran sporadically through my late 30’s and early 40’s, never really developing a set routine.
And, of course, life goes on.  I think late 30’s, early 40’s are particularly stressful times in most women’s lives.  We’re raising families, working, our parents are getting older and frailer, and we generally think we have to be Super Mom and keep everybody healthy and happy.  I know I suffered with Wonder Woman syndrome for years, and still have recurring bouts when I least expect it.  My parents grew more and more frail and unhealthy, eventually requiring my sisters and I to take on a lot of their care.  We shared the physical duties: doctor’s visits, cooking, giving them their meds, and had someone come in daily to help us with the cleaning and day to day tending.  I took on the financial duties. This was such a stressful time in my life, running would have been balm to a weary soul, but I struggled with time management and motivation, as so many women do.  Consequently, over the course of about five years, I put on roughly thirty pounds.  Right after we put our parent’s in a nursing home,  my mom passed away.  As difficult as this was, it became a time of healing, of looking to the future and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, spiritually, professionally, physically.  This blog will highlight the spiritual and physical journey.  I know it’s a blog about running, but my spiritual journey is the biggest part of the whole life journey, so I won’t be leaving it out.  
There are a lot of books, blogs, and magazines that highlight people’s journeys to fitness and/or weight loss.  Mine may bore you to tears.  Please, feel free to look away if it does. This journal is intended for women who have reached a certain age and think that it’s too late to try to get healthy, start a running (or walking) program, or to lose that weight that’s hung around for way too many years.   It’s not a how to journal, there are plenty of those out there, waiting for you at the click of a mouse.  Anyone is welcome to read it, but the message is from one woman’s heart to another’s.  And, to be very honest, it’s mostly for me.  To keep me focused and provide an outlet for all those thoughts that clutter my brain during my runs.  And, to help me figure out exactly how faith and fitness will work together throughout the remainder of my days to keep me sane.  
I’ll share some personal things, but none which will make you (or me) uncomfortable.  For instance, I freely share the amount of weight I need to lose, but really, do you need to know what I actually weigh?  I don’t think so.  As I lose, I’ll let you know how much.   I will share my goals with you, some very specific, others more general.  
I hope in doing this that I will inspire you to get up and move.  Because, truly, if I can do it, anyone can.   

The Rest of Us

There are people who are real athletes.  Runners who train hard, strong, and constantly to be the best, the fastest,  the fittest, the strongest.  Runners who work non stop to “be all they can be,” and who only race to win. They’re called “elite” runners because they really are.  Elite, that is.  Their numbers are few, but their athletic prowess is something to behold and admire.  Something to aspire to, even when the aspiration is completely unattainable.
 Then, there are the runners who are chasing them.  The ones who also race to win, even though they may not be “elite” runners.  These runners are strong competitors and usually win all the local races and place in national ones.  They win, place, and show in all the age group divisions, make racing look easy, and are fit, thin, wiry, and strong.  
Finally, there’s the rest of us.  Those of us who love the way running makes us feel, but know we’ll never be “real” competitors.  We might win an age group division in a small race where there are only a few in our age group, and we are the younger ones; but, even those wins are rare.  We proudly display our finisher’s medals and race numbers, our 3rd place medal (never mind that there were only 3 in our age group), and proclaim to the world that we are “runners.”  We run half-marathons.  We’re in training.  I proudly embrace that group.  I’m one of them.  And, that’s okay.  It wasn’t always okay, but that’s what this blog is about:  The Rest of Us. And learning to love being one of them.