The “D” word

Today’s run was one of those ugly, demoralizing events that made me question whether I should just throw in the towel, quit trying to rebuild my running base and take up competitive eating. I think I would be really good at that. I’m not that great at running.

Yes, it was ugly.  If you live in the south, you know that it’s hot.  No, I said that wrong.  IT’S.  HOT.  Insanely hot. Even for me, who really likes to sweat.  Especially if, through your own laziness and forgetfulness, you get up late, forget there’s a 5k at your usual running spot, and have to drive 15 minutes to another one.  No one to blame but me.  I know I need to be running no later that 6:15, so when I don’t get up until then, I’m already in a deficit.  Anyway, enough complaining.  It was hot, I was late, it was hard, it was ugly, but I got it done.  Four miles, even.  You did not want to be downwind from me when it was done.  And, if there’s any cell phone video of it while it was happening, I’m going to be needing that.  No one else needs to see just how ugly it really was.

Today’s run (and other recent doozies) was a reminder to me that nothing worthwhile (like good health) is easy to obtain.  I’ve managed to let me health decline, while allowing my weight to creep up, and it’s just going to take awhile to get back to the starting line.  As my wise daughter texted me the other day, “I wish getting fat hurt as much as getting fit.”  Ain’t it the truth.  (She’s so far from fat that’s almost laughable, but she knows the struggle is real, so she’s putting the effort in early.)  If getting fat hurt as much as getting fit did, I know for a fact I would be a size 2.  Running hurts.  Pizza feels good.  Not eating bread sucks.  I’m sorry, there’s just no other way to really say that.  

It’s physically and mentally painful to get fit.  It often requires more effort than I’m willing to give it, and this time of year, in South Mississippi, it takes 10 times the amount of effort it took just three short weeks ago.

I know why I do it.  I want to be healthy. I love to live life; scuba diving, hiking, exploring, letting my feet and lungs take me places others never get to go.  I have a hunger to experience life that it seems only my feet can fill.  I like the way the world looks from the trail.  And, I can’t run that trail, hike that hill, dive that reef, even walk all day in a new city, if I don’t keep chasing that running dream.  For me, it’s that simple.  

The reality of that 5 am wake up call is something else altogether.

Which brings me to that “D” word.

2Tim1-7

That verse is the first one I ever committed to memory as an adult out of need. It’s meant various things to me over the years. I’ve called it forth when I was fearful of something, whether it was as simple as singing a solo in church, or as monumental as trying to mend relationships that seemed broken beyond repair. At this point in my life, the “D” word is the one that jumps out. Yes, Discipline. Yuk. There are several translations of the words “self-discipline”, some translate it as “sound mind”, others as “self-control”. This is my favorite translation.

As I’ve pulled it into my heart this week in a daily reminder, I realized something that I don’t think I ever thought of before. This is a gift God has given me. The ability to discipline myself. Discipline as a gift? That had to settle in awhile before I grasped the absolute loveliness of it.

As with all His gifts, He’s given me the choice of whether to receive it or not. I can continue in my life as I have: sleeping in, eating/drinking too much, not allowing this gift of discipline to take hold in my life and set me on the path towards my goals; or I can embrace it with open arms and let it fill me with determination (another “D” word). I choose the latter.

Sigh. I really miss pizza.

warm up

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Turtle Days

It seems like every run lately has involved a turtle sighting.  I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I live in the boggy South, where heat and humidity have a summer long competition to see which one can make me the most uncomfortable (humidity won today).  Still, I run a lot, and to see turtles as often as I have lately feels a little like a message.  

Even the trail I often run is sending me the turtle message:

  

As I plunked along this morning, cycles whizzing past me at Tour de France speeds, runners easily lapping me, it seemed even the wildlife mocked me.  I thought of all the turtles I’ve seen over the past months, and it dawned on me:  these are Turtle Days.  

Now, this isn’t really a thing.  I realize that.  But, I have a particular affinity with the tortoise of fable.   I, too, am strong and steady.  And, slow.  

 I may not be fast, but I plod along, solving the world’s problems  in my mind, writing the great American Novel, plunking along until I get to the end.  Then, I go home, shower, live my life, and do it again the next day.  Slow, steady, true.  

Most days, I’m fine being the slow, steady one.  But, I’ll admit, it plays with my psyche.  I mean, will I ever be fast? Or, just faster?  Doubt creeps in and does its ugly number on my mind, and, if I’m not careful, soon I’m thinking, “Why bother?  I’ll always be the slow one.  Why keep on keeping on? ” I’ll admit, it sometimes discourages, even defeats me.  I mean, am I just not built for speed?

Then, I think of those turtles that I’ve seen.  Hmmm…  they don’t allow the fact that they are the slow, chunky kids on the playground to stop them from coming out to play.  Seriously, if my runs of the last few months are any indication, they are the most active kids on the playground.  Turtles are everywhere.  Coming and going, hither and yon.  They don’t allow their lack of speed to stop their progress. 

 There’s a lesson there.  

   
    
 

Most of the time I have no problem being the tortoise and not the hare.  I’m accepting of my lack of speed and I’m ever hopeful that one day I’ll be faster.  Until then, I’ll plod along, getting stronger, solving world crises, and writing the great American novel in my head.  I’m winning all the races in my mind, as well, so there’s that.    

  

I’m in this running game for the long haul, so I’ll keep on moving forward.  Plunking one foot in front of the other, reminding myself that it’s not about speed for me, but endurance.  I want to be running when I’m 90, after all, so for me that means slow and steady now, and maybe always.  

I have a lot of admiration for this little guy though:

  
He’s giving it his all, and what more can we do than that?  
  
I’m running on faith at this point.  It’s gotten me this far, I’m sure it’ll get me where I’m going.  

Doubt

It feels like every post I’ve done over the last few weeks has been about motivation or inspiration. Can you tell I’m struggling this summer? Not so much with the heat, but with the whimsy of a 51 year old body that has threatened revolt every time I’ve revved my training back up. First, with a back injury, followed by several weeks of intensive chiropractic/stretching/no running. I began to ease back into my mileage, adding more cycling days, and had a really great week a couple of weeks ago.

Gary always tends to the tires on our bikes before we ride, and I think, before that ride, he put wings on my tires. I hit speeds of 23 mph, with an average speed of 18-19 mph. For me, that’s flying. I almost handed him his helmet on that ride, but being a man, he couldn’t stand to see me win, so he kicked it up a notch and passed me in the last 5 yards. Whatever. At least I made him work for it.  Anyway, loved that ride, and began to think that I might actually be coordinated brave enough to try clipping in on my bike on the next ride. Ran well that weekend and looked forward to the week ahead.

Which brings us to last week. We got up on Monday morning to ride, (as we were headed out of town later that week to see the Braves play), and I could not get it together. Gary flew off, and I pedaled through quicksand for 13 tortuous miles. I had gotten too much sun that weekend at a fun girl’s day at my sister’s pool, so I blamed it on that. However, later that day, the unmistakeable sign of a urinary tract infection began rearing its ugly head. By Tuesday morning, it was full fledged. A day of torture, including an extended doctor’s visit, then, finally, blissful medication ensued. I’ve had at least one UTI per year for the last 30+ years, but this one hit me pretty hard. I enjoyed our trip to Atlanta, but really didn’t feel up to par. Is this what it means to be over 50? Getting older is not for the faint of heart, is it? Sigh.

Needless to say, there was no running or cycling last week. I finally felt better by Sunday and set my alarm for an early run. I’ve slapped the snooze button, then the OFF button,  for three days straight, and still haven’t made it out the door. Gary and I have plans to get up tomorrow for an early ride, no excuses. We’ve both got to get moving again.

I don’t mind admitting to you that last week brought with it the first doubt I’ve felt in a long, long time. Am I too old to try to add mileage and be faster? Have I had my day in the sun? I haven’t even broken a 9:30 mile yet.  Am I ever going to at this point? It seems like every time my heart and head point me towards a goal, my body says, “Yeah. Thanks, but no thanks.”

Okay, if you have been following my blog for any length of time, or if you know me, you know that “can’t” isn’t in my wheelhouse. I used a great quote in a recent post, “Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith, it’s an element of it.”

Without doubt, how would we know what faith looks or feels like? If I depend on my strength to get through this tough time, I’m doomed to failure. But, I know the Man. I know the One who can. The One who gives me strength to accomplish all He has set out for me to do. So, I’m leaning on Him. I’m remembering His promises. I’m claiming them for my own. Today and everyday.
BelieveSheCould

Let’s Do This.

23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Mark 11:23

I would love whatever encouraging voices you can lift.  We’re all in this together, and I need your encouragement now, more than ever.

 

Faith, prayer, and doubt

Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith, it is an element of faith.  Paul Tillich

I actually wrote this weeks ago, when a friend was going through a particularly difficult struggle.  It felt too personal then, but some events this week have made me very introspective about life and it felt right to post it now.

When I pray for those I love, I have a tendency to ask God to ease their path, to make their troubles go away, to give them happiness, to make their lives easy.  As God has increased my faith, though, I have realized that is the wrong way to pray.

I want God not to calm their storms, but to give them the knowledge that they will weather them, and the peace that comes from that understanding.  Not to make their troubles disappear, but through those troubles,  teach them the lessons they need to live their lives with passion and integrity.  Not to give them happiness, but to give them joy.  The joy that comes with the faith of knowing He still walks on water.

As a parent and a loving friend, those prayers don’t come easily to me.  I have an innate desire to keep my kids (and friends) from falling, to prevent their failures, to mend their broken hearts as easily as I tended scraped knees and bruised feelings when they were young.  I’m learning, though.  As we release our children into the harsh, cold, often evil world, we have to let them go.  Let them make their way, walk their own path, learn from their own failures and mistakes, and, yes, allow them to face the evil in the world.

It’s important to face evil and learn to summon our faith when evil presents itself.  The ability to summon that faith is only learned in the school of hard knocks and at the foot of the cross.  We walk (or stumble) through trials for a reason.  Those troubles define us, and it’s up to us to decide if they are going to swallow us or if we are going to rise out of the ashes and put the lessons they teach us to good use. It’s up to us to use those lessons to discover our purpose in this world.

I often wonder if it’s as hard for God to watch us hurt or fail as it is for us to watch our loved ones.  Parenting and loving people are not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure.

When our kids are very young, we can shield them from the world to some degree.  But, when they’re grown, we have to completely relinquish control.  For a control freak like me, that’s no easy task.  I want to reach into the lives of my children and friends and mop up the mess they’ve made, or even better, prevent them from spilling it in the first place. Pretty arrogant of me, I know.  I’m not sure if learning to let our loved ones fail is a lesson for them or for us.  I suspect it’s an even split.  The knowledge that we can’t fix all their problems is humbling.  It’s also an opportunity to overcome doubt and realize Who is in control.

So, I pray for wisdom. I pray for the ability to listen without speaking, the knowledge to know when to speak and what to say. I pray for the peace of knowing my loved ones are truly seeking God.

When I was younger, I had all the answers.  Now, I realize that I mostly have questions. I was afraid to admit to doubt, unaware that not only is God big enough to handle my doubt, no question is off limits with Him.  I know that when I’m still enough, He guides me.  When I’m troubled, He calms me.  By the same token, when I’m prideful, He humbles me.  I’m thankful for that much wisdom, at least.

I still wish that seeking God was easier.  That finding the answers was as easy as “Googling” it.  I wish our paths weren’t strewn and marred with the detritus of our struggles.  In spite of the seeming unfairness of that, though, there it is.  I always learn more when I stumble through the darkness than when I walk easily in the light.  Accepting that is a life long challenge.  So is learning the art of intercessory prayer.

I pray that I learn how to pray for those I love.  That I learn not to try to make their paths easy,  but to give them comfort and unconditional love as they struggle. That I learn to keep my mouth shut when I need to, and learn to wait for God’s wisdom to speak.  That may mean not saying anything at all.  A Herculian task for me, I’ll admit, but one that God can easily accommodate, if I let Him.

Deep thoughts and big prayers this rainy evening.  I’m thankful my God is able.

You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”  Matthew 17:20

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