Stormy seas

I’m racing on Saturday.  A half marathon.  13.1 miles.  Miles for which I am woefully undertrained.  This due to injuries and illness that have plagued my training this year, but somewhat made up for in the last six weeks training with my man.  We ran our last training run yesterday on the course where the race will be held, a ten miler.  The last three miles were ugly and painful, but we powered through.  Or, he did, as I tried to draft off his energy, but fell behind over and over.  Of course, he waited for me to catch up, then hit it again.  Yes, a man with a really fancy scar and very expensive hardware in his leg is faster than me, even though the break was only a little over a year ago.  (But, I’m not bitter.)

That ten miler was truly an exercise in mental discipline.  I mentioned I’m undertrained.  I’m also still struggling with injury.  Something (often everything) hurt from mile 4 until the end.  About half the run, we ran into the wind.  Queasiness set in about mile 7.  I really, really wanted to quit.  The only thing that kept me moving was that man quietly limp/running slightly ahead of me.  Of course, this morning, I’m glad I endured.  The race Saturday will probably not yield a PR for me, but hopefully, I’ll endure until the end, and come out stronger on the other side.

As I sat in our rented condo at the beach this morning, watching the rainy skies and seas pounding the surf, thinking of recent struggles in my life and the lives of those I love, I began to reflect on what makes us strong.   Have you ever noticed how calm and serene the sea is after a storm?  Or how, after a thunderstorm, the world shines with a new glow?  The same is true in our lives.  It’s the storms of life that teach us, that discipline us, that make (or break) us.  I add the “or break” because sometimes the storms do break us.  It’s always a choice.

stormy seas

I read with interest an article which dispels the notion that many of us have grown up believing, that God won’t give us more than we can handle.  The truth is He will, and does.  But, the more awesome truth is, He won’t make us walk through the storms alone.  And, when we seek answers, He always provides them.

Whatever your belief system is, the hard truth is that we will all have storms.  The “trick” is to choose to look into the storm and believe you’ll get past it.  To choose faith, and not fall into the black hole of despair.  That’s really hard sometimes.  It’s not always easy to have faith, and doubt has a way of teasing the corners of our hearts until we give in to it.  What I’ve learned through running is that you put your head down, chase the doubt from your mind, and keep moving forward.  It doesn’t have to be pretty.  It doesn’t have to be fast.  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  You’ll eventually cross the finish line.  Maybe battered and torn, but you’ll heal.  And, you’ll heal stronger than you were before.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.  James 1:2-4

 

Grace to get over myself

I haven’t made a secret of the fact that I’ve had a tough year running.  Injuries sustained long ago have come back to haunt, motivation has been low, minor illnesses that made me feel yuck stopped me.  Generally one thing after another, and, I confess, I’ve been pretty low.  On the verge of real depression, and often really feeling my age and wondering if I would ever run well again.   Not. Good.

As always happens at low points in my life, I turn inward, seeking God’s voice, willing myself to be still and listen, aching for the peace that surpasses all understanding.  And, as always, He comes through.  He has recently reminded me (gently and not so gently) of the grace He’s allowed in my life.  Of the people He’s put here to help me through, the blessings He’s provided for  me, the abilities He’s given me that He expects me to use.  And, I’ve been humbled.

Humbled by the way He answers our prayers, by the many manifestations of grace He allows us to see, and by the way He walks with us in the storms of our lives.  Just in the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen not one, but two, beautiful babies who medical science had given up on. These babies were prayed over on a global scale  and both had  miraculous healings.  I’ve read or heard of the loss of several beautiful lives, all taken too soon, and the grace their families have shown in the loss, as well as the impact these lives had on those of us left behind.  That only comes from God.  The plight of women around the world has been brought to my attention, and I’ve marveled at the strength and courage many of these women have shown each and every day of their lives.

And, I got over myself.  My problems, which seemed insurmountable and completely encompassed me, have been prioritized.

Here are some definitions of grace:

*elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action (yeah, I don’t think this one applies to me)
*mercy; clemency; pardon (now we’re getting warmer)
*the free and unmerited favour of God shown towards man (Bingo!)

Free and unmerited favor. I look at my life and see so much grace. Of course, the most important grace was granted to me on becoming a Christ follower. Realizing that I am a sinner, and only through God’s perfect plan have I been granted the ability to have a relationship with Him through His son, Jesus Christ. And, because of that relationship, I am granted entry to eternity with Him, as well as many smaller manifestations of grace that permeate my life this side of heaven.

As I look at my life, I see His hand throughout. He has provided me with all the grace I need for this journey.  We’re all on that journey; realizing and appreciating the manifestations of grace throughout our lives is optional.

Of course, it’s easy to write platitudes about grace. To quote definitions and verses about grace that make you nod your head in agreement… “Yes, that’s grace all right.”

What isn’t so easy is to recognize grace in your life. To see how God uses everyday situations, people who are already in your life – your work environment, your play environment. To allow grace to seep in through the cracks and fill your life with His goodness. I’m learning to recognize those. I’m learning to be still, to be attentive to God moments, to be thankful for people He’s given me in order for me to catch a small glimpse of Him, His love, His promises, His grace, in my life. I don’t know what it looks like for you, but here is a small part of what it looks like for me.

Recently, my man and I had a very quiet beach vacation.  We used that time to gently kick start my training plan for an upcoming race, ride bikes, kayak in the bay, read, spend time with each other, listen for God’s voice.  It reminded me that the second largest manifestation of grace in my life is my man.  Don’t tell him, but I think he’s pretty awesome.  Okay, you can tell him.  I think he may already know.

Knowing that I’ve been struggling with my running program, he designed a plan for me that will hopefully get me across the finish line of my half next month upright and uninjured. Emphasis on uninjured.  A gentle mileage increase, and lots of cross training.  Not only did he design a plan for me, he’s training right along beside me. You remember my man, don’t you? The one who broke his leg last year; had not one, but three surgeries on it, and is running side by side with me as I train for a race that means a lot to me, but probably not so much to him. He may even pace the race for me, depending on how well the training goes.

That window of time that I ran faster than him? Yeah, it closed on me. He’s back and will most likely be back to fighting form by the first of the year. Oddly enough, that doesn’t make me resentful (well, mostly). It humbles me.  Another example of God’s grace for our journey.

Who needs an anchor? A photo session on our recent beach trip.

Who needs an anchor? A photo session on our recent beach trip.

I’m thankful that I’m grace filled rather than graceful.  Good thing, because I think the graceful ship has sailed.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.  Romans 5: 3-5

Define yourself

success

I’m mostly a fan of social media. Like everything, it can be used for good or evil, so monitoring it and setting limits on myself factor highly in my accessibility. I hide those people whose posts are mostly negative, and I seek out those who motivate me.

One of the pages I look at daily offers motivational quotes for athletes, primarily runners. One recent post was by elite marathoner, Deena Kastor. She talked about how we grow as humans and athletes by training when it’s difficult, and she closed with a simple quote by her “seldom without words” coach as she headed out to run the Chicago marathon in 2005 (which she won). He simply told her, “Define yourself.”

Those words resonated with me at a time that I’m struggling. In training and in life, it’s been a dicey time for me. What’s strange about this time is that my struggles are ALL mental. There’s nothing wrong physically and my life is much the same as it always is, but still, I’m struggling. So, I took those words to heart. Who exactly am I? Where do I see the next phase of my life taking me? Deep thoughts for a nice fall afternoon.

I don’t think we ever truly know how others view us, but, unfortunately, I think we all too often decide who we are based on our perceptions of others’ opinions. So, as I define myself, I don’t want to consider who others think I am.  The only opinions that factor are mine and God’s.

Who am I?


I am a woman defined by faith.
My relationship with God trumps all the others, but not in a “so, there” kind of way. My faith defines me, it makes me look at others with compassion, understand the true meaning of love, and reach out to those who aren’t like me. I’ll always be a work in progress, but I’m humbled by the fact that God loves me, warts and all.

I am a wife. I’m so unbelievably thankful that God knew what I didn’t all those years ago when He brought me my man.  I was a really dumb kid, and God came through.  Love. That. Man.

I am a mother. My girls mean the world to me. They are strong, independent women that I take great pride in, even if I had very little to do with who they have become.

I am a runner. Running is so much a part of me that when I’m not able to train, or when my training isn’t going well (like now), my whole world seems slightly skewed, a little off color, not quite balanced.

I am an artist. Whether through the camera lens, or through my writing, art is a huge part of my definition. I’m not proclaiming greatness, photography and writing are simply the ways that I express myself. I make no apologies for my art, it may or may not be your cup of tea. What others think doesn’t matter in my definition of me, my thoughts and creative processes are my own: hop aboard and ride along, or simply turn it off, that choice is yours.

I am a woman who:

loves deeply; is a loyal friend; tells the truth easily; lies badly; likes wine a little more than I ought to; runs very, very slowly; is strong in a crises, but breaks down afterward; loves the outdoors and marvels at the creation of an all knowing God; argues passionately about those things that matter and tries not to argue about those things that don’t; loves her extended family as though she gave birth to them; sometimes worries too much about split times; cries too easily, especially during cheesy movies; sometimes wants to quit, but finds deep reserves to keep on keeping on; loves to laugh; appreciates beauty in multiple forms; often sees beauty where others don’t; sometimes shuts out the world with a good book (or reruns of Big Bang – hey, I never claimed to be perfect); falls a lot, but has learned to pick herself up and keep moving forward; often doubts her own abilities, but is learning to lean on God during those times; stands at attention, hand over heart when the National Anthem is sung, and sheds tears easily when “God Bless America” is performed at a ball game; believes in miracles and the power of prayer; understands the role doubt plays in faith; hates confrontation, but stands up for what she believes; will pray for you when you are hurting, and will listen when you need a friend; hates “selfies” and what they say about the self involvement of the next generation, but enjoys looking at images that spread joy; looks at our next generation with wonder, awe, and concern as I see the world we’re handing down to them; encourages those who need a boost, but seldom willing to let others boost her (a HUGE failing on my part); knows her failings much better than she knows her strengths.

As I seek to define myself, I know that my gaze has to be heavenward. Sometimes that’s hard for me, I have a stubborn propensity to want to do it all on my own. How goofy, yet how human. My prayer for the upcoming year (I had a birthday last week & haven’t set my yearly goals yet) is that I will turn to God more frequently in prayer, I will listen more quietly and with less petition, I will heed His word and His will for my life.

self doubt

In running, in life, in all that I do, I pray that I will reflect God’s definition of me.

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.

 

Let the mind games begin

Summer is here.  Officially and unofficially.  Runs have become sweatfests.  I’m not complaining, I’m ready for it.  I’ll probably be singing a different tune about mid-August, but for now, I’ll take it.

The thing about running summers in south Mississippi is timing.  Unless you have a death wish, you can’t run between the hours of 8 am and 8 pm.  Before or after, you’re going to sweat, but you’re less likely to die of heat stroke.

The problem for me is that I’m not really a morning person, and I’m REALLY not a late evening person.  A late bedtime for me is 9:30.  I know, that shows my age, but I don’t care.  I fully embrace my old broad status.  I’m fed, bathed, and in my pj’s by no later than 8 pm, and in bed, usually asleep no later than 9:30.  Seems like I would then be bright eyed and bushy tailed by 5 am, but, for whatever reason, it doesn’t happen that way.

I can make myself get up, as long as my man has to get up, also.  Staying in bed isn’t as much fun solo.  I’m a little dangerous when I get up really early, though.  This morning, Gary had to leave by 6, and I wanted to get in a short run, so I got up at 5:30 to fix his breakfast.  I put my coffee water on to heat (I’m a French press girl, so my coffee takes a little longer), then I set about making Gary’s breakfast while I waited for my brains to wake up.   I put his bacon on to cook, then started prepping the scrambled eggs.  I sprayed the skillet, whisked the eggs, then fixed Gary’s coffee (he’s a Keurig guy).  I took him his coffee, then checked the bacon.  It was still completely raw and cold.  What?

By then, the kettle was whistling for my coffee, so I poured it into the French press, then turned back to the bacon.  Still raw and cold.  I felt the pan and it was cold, too.  Turns out, I hadn’t turned it on.  Geez.  Turned it on, poured myself a cupa joe, then looked back at the stove to see smoke spiraling toward the ceiling.  The eye I had turned on for the bacon was actually the eye under the egg skillet (which, of course, was eggless because I was waiting for the bacon to cook).  Anyway, Gary finally got his breakfast and I finally got my coffee,  but it really brought home how clueless I am before 6 am and coffee.

So, what’s a South MS gal who loves her sleep to do when summer rolls in?  Learn how to trick herself into rolling out of bed early on those hot summer days.  It’s a little easier for me when Gary has to be up early and get on the road for work.  Mornings when we don’t have someplace to be, it’s way too easy to snuggle down in bed.  I’ve spent a fortune making my bed sleep friendly, Tempurpedic mattresses and pillows, 1600 thread count sheets, temperature set at 76 degrees Fahrenheit, fans creating white noise, as well as keeping us cool and comfortable. I love my bed and treasure my sleep time.

I’m telling you, running is much more mental than physical.

I learned when I was training for NYC through the long, hot summer of 2011, that in order to roll out early, several things need to occur.  I have to be completely ready the night before.  No early morning search for shoes or Garmin or iPod.  All is neatly laid out and ready to fall into.  But, that’s not enough.  Getting my feet on the floor requires some mental gymnastics.  I’ve had to come up with many tricks to make myself get up.  One of my go-to tricks is to tell myself that I don’t have to run today, I can just walk and pray.  Sometimes, I promise myself coffee and a devotion, then I can decide if I’m actually going to run.  Sometimes, I bribe myself.  If I run x amount of miles, I’ll get a treat to go along with my after run coffee.  Almost always, just the act of getting up and starting my morning routine will get me out the door and running on time.

The most effective “trick” right now is to remind myself how wonderful I feel when I make myself workout, how my day flows with productivity, how my mood is brighter and happier; and how awful I feel for the entire day if I don’t get my butt in gear early.  Also, the threat of having to complete my miles on a treadmill because I’ve stayed in bed too long to safely run outside is motivation to get me moving.  I would rather broadcast my weight online than get on a treadmill.  Yes, I hate treadmill running that much.

As you can tell from my breakfast fiasco, I’m not a morning person.  However, after a couple of cups of black coffee, I’m usually ready to roll.  Today’s run was a pretty easy one.  I ran five yesterday, so I didn’t want to push my luck. I’m still very, very slow on my injury comeback, but I’m getting there.  I pushed the last mile yesterday pretty hard, so I took it fairly easy this morning.   Walked half a mile for a warm-up, ran two miles hard, then walked half a mile for a cool down.  I guess the humidity was really high, because after I was done, sweat engulfed me.  I keep a towel in my car so that after runs, I can put it on my seat and keep the funk smell at bay, but I guess I took it out to wash after the last run at the Trace and forgot to put it back.  Fortunately, I have a convertible, so I put the top down and headed to Starbucks for my post run coffee.  It’s a commentary on how humid it was  that my barista asked me if I had been for a swim this morning.   I’m sure I looked lovely.  Good thing I checked my ego at the door.

So, mind games are the topic of the day.  What are some of your favorite tricks to get yourself up and “at ’em” in the wee morning hours?  Share in the comments section, I may have to steal a few to get me through the summer.

argument

6 In the morning it blooms and flourishes,
but by evening it is dry and withered. Psalm 90:6