Finding the light

I’ll admit it. It’s been a fairly dark summer for me. I’ve struggled physically, which darkens my mood in direct proportion. I’ve had minor ailments, truly nothing that should make this journey seem So. Dang. Hard. Yet, hard it’s been. I’ve had to dig deeper than I ever have to maintain the barest level of fitness. And, I do mean barest.

But, I’m an eternal optimist. And, I think determined is a kind word to describe me. My husband might call it hard headed, but it has served me well during this time of struggle. I’m not one to ever give up when I have my eyes fixed on a goal.

I have learned a really important lesson through all this. It’s one I already knew, but, deep down I didn’t think it applied to me. It’s a very simple lesson, one we learn as children, and hammer into place as adults. It’s this: Garbage in, garbage out. You are what you eat. Turns out those tired, old cliches are true, after all. You simply can’t outrun bad nutrition. Your body won’t let you. Oh, you may get away with it for a while (especially if you’re young), but at some point, your body will come to a screeching halt, flip you the bird, and declare it’s done. That’s where my body was heading. I won’t bore you with the details of the things I’ve been pouring into it; but, they included large amounts of foods that don’t properly fuel my body, chased by gallons of (very good) wine and coffee.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reigning in my runaway eating, I’ve made purposeful choices about what to put in my mouth and what to leave out, I’ve planned meals intentionally, and I’m cooking again.  I’m finally feeling like myself again.  The body is a truly amazing thing.  When you take proper care of it, it responds well and performs in almost any way you ask it to.

Yesterday’s run was the first one in many, many weeks that really felt good. Still painfully slow, but strong and steady. I can live with that for now. This morning my man and I did hill repeats, again slowly, but with strength and purpose. It really annoys me that he can already kick my a** again on the last hill, in spite of the fact that he’s got hardware in his leg and has just started running again. I’ve written about that hill before. It hates me.  I hate it. So, I’m determined to conquer it. Maybe one day we’ll be friends. Or, at least, it will know who is boss.

This evening, my legs are pleasantly sore (mostly).  I’m tired in the way I should be tired, not in the “I think I’m coming down with something” kind of tired. I’m looking ahead in anticipation to the workouts we have planned this week.

I’m headed toward the light again. Finally. And, I haven’t had to give up coffee. 😉

giant step

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Emptying my cup

“I’m not responsible for filling your cup. I’m just responsible for emptying mine.” Andy Stanley

My mojo is returning. But, like a starving wild animal easing stealthily toward its food source, it is shy and fragile, easily scared away. So, I’m tiptoeing around it, running easily, planning runs that soothe my soul and tease my mojo into raising its head and joining me in earnest. I have a half marathon on Saturday that I’m running, but I’ve decided to run it naked, in deference to my mojo. Don’t be scared, though, or avoid Hattiesburg in the fear that you’ll see something you shouldn’t, that just means I’m going without electronics. I’m not going to be a slave to my pace, but try to savor each moment and remember why I started running in the first place. Time enough for goal setting and pushing hard after the race.

I woke early this Easter morning. I actually set my alarm for 6:30 (which won’t be early enough when the heat comes), so that I could enjoy the dawn, remember, and give thanks for that Easter morning so many centuries ago. I was awake before it went off and lay in bed listening to the birds singing their morning song and being humbly thankful for my salvation. I got up and read the Resurrection story in each of the gospels and savored each word as though it was the first time I read it. Then, coffee and a quick breakfast saw me out the door for my run.

As I ran, I listened to Northpoint Community Church’s podcast, as I so often do, and in one of them, Andy Stanley made the above captioned quote. As I thought about it, it made me reflect on how well I am emptying my cup. I’ve been so concerned that I was filling other’s cups, that I’ve often neglected to pour mine on the world. I’ve only recently learned some of what is in my cup, now it’s time to concentrate on pouring it out.

It actually comes as something of a relief that I don’t have to worry whether I’ve filled your cup, my responsibility is done after emptying mine. In other words, what you do with what I (or anyone else) give you is entirely up to you. I’ve spent way too much time worrying about other people’s actions or reactions, and not nearly enough time giving of myself. It’s time to change that. It’s time to empty my cup. Give of my gifts and not worry about the return, or the lack thereof.

The return of spring with its warm, soft breezes, smell of honeysuckle and gardenia, blooming and renewal of the earth, promise of rebirth and new hope all work together to coax my mojo out of hiding. With its return, I plan to honor my responsibilities and pour out my cup. To discover my gifts and be generous with them so that, at the end of my days, the measure of my life will be evident by what I’ve left behind.

“The true value of a life is measured by how much of it is given away.” Andy Stanley

Happy Easter, my friends.


Real Women

I’m not inspired by the media’s idea of what a woman looks like. That over processed, photo-shopped to within an inch of her life, impossibly thin, perfectly proportioned, flat bellied, no pored woman only inspires me to roll my eyes and give a very unladylike snort of impatience and disgust.

What inspires me? Real women. Here’s my definition of a real woman.

A Real woman:
*eats well, choosing nutrition over starvation. She makes good food choices, and stands up to the temptations of red velvet cake and heavily buttered bread.
*doesn’t beat herself up when she yields to those temptations. She simply puts it behind her and moves forward.
*applauds her women friends when they have a 22 pound weight loss in one month, even when her own scale says the same thing it has always said, even after months of working out and eating right.
*is happy in her own skin. The skin which is not quite as tight as it used to be, droops a little here and there, has more wrinkles than it used to, but still looks good, even with many years of wear on it.
*rises early, slaps on her running shoes, and heads out the door, even when she doesn’t want to, doesn’t feel like it, and sees no discernible change on the scale, in the way her clothes fit, or in the mirror.
*encourages her friends and family when she knows they’re facing the same lack of motivation.
*looks at images in the media and realizes that no one really looks like that, not even the one in the picture.
*doesn’t care what she looks like when she’s in the middle of a run and doesn’t mind making a fool of herself in yoga class or being the one who dances off beat at Zoomba. She celebrates her ability to do those things with enthusiasm and joy.
*never looks at other women in judgement, offering only prayers and encouragement for those who may not be at the same place on their fitness journeys.
*rejoices in the victories of her friends, even the small ones.
*grieves with and consoles her friends when they are facing weight issues or any tough life issues.
*only offers advice and help when asked.
*makes taking care of herself a priority. She knows that she can’t take care of her family if she’s not at her best.
*learns to love that face she sees in the mirror and accept its changes as God’s way of showing the life she’s led. Good and bad.
*accepts herself exactly as she is, while always striving to be the best she can be.
*knows her limitations, but constantly toes the line in an attempt to exceed and surpass those same limitations.
*knows that teaching by example is the most effective way to teach.

I’m blessed to know, love, admire, and emulate many of these women. I strive to be that woman. I am in some ways, fail miserably in others. The important thing is to keep on trying. Never give up, never give in. Know that being that woman isn’t just important, it’s life altering.

I could go on about the characteristics that make up real women, but someone else said it much better than me.

17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks…
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy…
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Proverbs 31: 17-31 (selected verses only)

Strong is the new skinny. Be strong. Choose to be a real woman.

The power of saltwater

“The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.” Isak Dinesen

As a distance runner in the southeast, I am very familiar with the healing power of sweat. And, as a long time scuba diver, I am equally aware of the serenity of the sea. As one who has been known to cry at a Disney movie, I can also vouch for the cleansing nature of a nice, healthy cry.

These were my thoughts yesterday as I ran in the South Mississippi morning heat. We’ve had a slight cool front move through, and it wasn’t quite as hot and humid as it normally is. Even so, by the end of my 5 miler, my clothes were soaked to the dripping point and my eyes were burning with the sweat that had run unchecked into them. I don’t really mind running in the heat. It is much more appealing to me than running in the cold, but I do have to be careful and run smart. So, it’s very early morning runs, or, in the event that I oversleep, it’s the dreadmill. I’ve learned not to press the snooze button – the dreadmill is like walking the plank.

My mind has been very full lately with different things. Work that needs to be caught up on after our extended vacation time last month, the troubles of some precious friends, family illness and issues, looking for God’s hand in some of my endeavors, missing precious family who have recently moved away. I’m not a worrier. By nature I probably am, but I’ve learned to let God handle all those things that I can’t seem to control, and it’s made me a much happier person because of it. One of the gifts God has given me to deal with worry is running. The cleansing of a hard run and good sweat. There are no problems that can withstand a hard run in the heat of a Mississippi summer morning. By the end of the run, the problem may not be solved, but it is safely relegated to its place in my life as one of the many things over which I have no control. There is an entire closet in my mind of those things that I’ve had to release to God. Funny how He always knows what to do with them.

A boat ride on the ocean, or better yet, a nice, long dive in warm, blue water has the same effect on me. In the event I’m unable to do either, a beach chair, umbrella, warm white sand, and the pound of the surf can work magic on my soul. What is it about saltwater? I’m not one to seek answers to unanswerable things, so whatever it is, I’m thankful.

I’ve noticed that since running (and profuse sweating) have become a routine part of my life, I no longer seem to have the need of a good long cry. Don’t mistake me, now. I still tear up at a sappy movie, and there are some life events that have to be baptized with tears. But, my mood stays pretty constant, as long as I can get my run in. I know there have been many studies on the mood lifting power of exercise, and I am proof positive. There have been times of deep depression in my life, and I’m humbled and grateful beyond words that God has given me this gift of running to show me how to overcome that without the need for medication.

In addition to learning to embrace the power of sweat through running, I’m in the midst of overhauling my eating plan to a much more natural way of life. My general rule of thumb is if my great grandmother would not or could not have served it, I don’t either. I think about the lives of my ancestors, and I know that running was not a part of their daily routine. Not for exercise, anyway. But, their lives were filled with physical labor, some easy, some overwhelmingly hard. Some of the main scourges of our society today come from the fact that we eat highly over processed foods and sit on our bottoms most of the time. We’ve forgotten the healing properties of sweat.

The following verse is from one of my favorite descriptions of who a woman should be, in Proverbs 31.

She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks. Proverbs 31:17

My prayer for myself, and all the women that I love is that we will set about our work vigorously, and prepare our bodies and minds for the tasks ahead. Embrace the power of sweat.