February 29 | Brokenness

Brokeness

This Lenten practice of writing a little every day about a prompt is difficult. Not because I can’t think of what to say – I love writing in almost any form – but because it’s forcing me to ‘come clean’ about things. Not to ‘confess’ my sins or anything, but to actually start saying out loud what’s been in my soul for months. That said…

I’ve felt broken for most of my life. When I was a little girl, I felt broken because I was the ‘smart’ one, and was therefore made fun of, cast out of social groups, etc. (I also developed an immense arrogance about my intelligence, which was probably a way of trying to make myself feel better.) When I became a teenager, I felt broken because I felt like my body was just… weird. I got super tall, super fast, and then towards the end of high school I really ‘filled out’. My feet seemed huge (size 10-10.5), my hips and bust seemed too big, and I had cellulite! Imagine! My aunt reassured me that I was proportionate, but I felt anything but.

From the time I turned about 20 until now, it’s been a struggle to love my body. I’ve fluctuated in weight, but maintained a certain weight for a long period of time. I’ve struggled with my love of food, specifically sweets. I’ve struggled with my desire to workout or commit to training.

Now that I’m (almost) 30, I’m coming into a season where I’m beginning to love and accept my body. Technically I’m overweight right now. Post-deployment and trying-to-conceive stress manifested itself in emotional eating and (some) emotional drinking.

However, since the new year, I’ve turned a new leaf and really enjoyed running and working out, and I’ve been able to have some more self-control. We’re getting up around 5 AM to work out most days. I ran 56 miles in February. We applied for new life insurance policies and therefore had to have bloodwork done. Mine came back with flying colors. The only thing that was too high was my good cholesterol. The results made me feel good, that despite being overweight by somebody else’s standards, I’m still healthy. My body can still do good things despite not being able to get pregnant.

Yay, right? Good for me, right? Look at me, I did that! Except not really. I can try as I might to manage my own brokenness. I can try to modify what I see in the mirror, but true healing of brokenness only comes from the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Sometime in the past couple years or so, I had a revelation. I thought about my elderly relatives, one of whom will turn 100 this summer (100!!!), and I think about what we’ll say after she’s gone. ‘She was a loving mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother. She was patient. She was a faithful wife.’ None of those statements have to do with her body, or how many pounds overweight/underweight she is, or how many marathons she ran.

It then occurred to me that what I want to think about on my death bed is not how well I maintained my ‘ideal’ or ‘happy’ weight, or how many miles I ran per month, but how complete I was in Christ. How I did His bidding, and completed my earthly tasks with grace, dignity, and excellence. How I let the Holy Spirit continually heal and mend me. I don’t want to leave this earth with a trail of brokenness behind me.

Will your grace run out
If I let you down
‘Cause all I know
Is how to run

‘Cause I am a sinner
If it’s not one thing it’s another
Caught up in words
Tangled in lies
But You are a Savior
And You take brokenness aside
And make it beautiful
Beautiful

Will You call me child
When I tell you lies
‘Cause all I know
Is how to cry

‘Cause I am a sinner
If it’s not one thing it’s another
Caught up in words
Tangled in lies
But You are a Savior
And You take brokenness aside
And make it beautiful
Beautiful

You make it beautiful
You make it beautiful

‘Cause I am a sinner
If it’s not one thing it’s another
Caught up in words
Tangled in lies
But You are a Savior
And You take brokenness aside
And make it beautiful
Beautiful

I am a sinner
If it’s not one thing it’s another
Caught up in words
Tangled in lies, oh yeah
But You are a Savior
And You take brokenness aside
And make it beautiful
Beautiful

‘Brokenness Aside’ – All Sons and Daughters

February 28 | Home

Home

Beannacht

(“Blessing”)

On the day when

the weight deadens

on your shoulders

and you stumble,

may the clay dance

to balance you.

And when your eyes

freeze behind

the grey window

and the ghost of loss

gets in to you,

may a flock of colours,

indigo, red, green,

and azure blue

come to awaken in you

a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays

in the currach of thought

and a stain of ocean

blackens beneath you,

may there come across the waters

a path of yellow moonlight

to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,

may the clarity of light be yours,

may the fluency of the ocean be yours,

may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow

wind work these words

of love around you,

an invisible cloak

to mind your life.

~ John O’Donohue ~

The prompt for today was to respond to the poem above. Today’s word is ‘home’. I’ve been living away from where I grew up for almost five years now, in two different states. In Maryland, we’re significantly closer to our ‘home’ in Illinois (about 800 miles compared to 1500 miles in west Texas), but it’s still pretty far. Maryland looks and acts more like Illinois, and that’s comforting.

But for the time I’ve lived away, I’ve struggled with what to call ‘home’. The poem above talks about going home, but sometimes I don’t know if that’s my house in Maryland, or central Illinois. It can be both, I think. Not an either-or. I tend to see life in black and white; it’s part of my analytical personality. But I think it can be both. They say that ‘home is where the heart is’. Sometimes it’s here with my husband, and sometimes it’s with my family in Illinois.

Perhaps what this poem is talking about is our home in heaven. That is my true home, where I was originally born out of. I came from the dust, and to dust I shall return. I want my heart to always be with God, regardless of the physical trappings of this world. Then I don’t have to question whether it’s in the right place… it will be in the place.

Surviving the descent

I have to find the silver linings, the good things, about this. Because if I don’t, I’m doomed to live a life of regret and sorrow. Thing is, I never really thought about the alternative. Sure, maybe I tossed the idea around in my head that maybe this would never happen, but I didn’t dwell on it, and I really didn’t think it wouldn’t happen.

I don’t know if I’m still actively grieving. I spend a lot of time in my head as my own psychologist, even though I don’t have any credentials. I try to masterfully meta the crap out of my feelings, thoughts, outbursts. I have to just feel, let it be. Just let it be.

Something like this inevitably drives an annoying and awkward wedge, whether large or small, into relationships. Thankfully we, the only ‘we’ that really matters, have enveloped that chasm with our love and affection for each other that’s not dependent on the outcome.

Here I go, metathinking again. But maybe this is a reason I love adventure and mountaineering literature. People choose to go through hard trials of all sorts… climbing Everest without oxygen, trying to be the first woman to reach the summit of K2, setting out on a voyage to reach the top of the world. It’s not like any of us were forced into this; we all partook at will.

Some people perish, posthumously granted an all-access pass into the heart of mountains and seas. Some people survive, broken, missing fingers and toes, a brutal reminder of the peril they endured. Some people come out of it refreshed and renewed for the next adventure.

I think I’ve been a little of all of those kinds of people. A part of me has died, quite literally. Month after month, now year after year. There’s nothing tangible to determine this end, but I’m still missing something, someone, that seemed just within reach at one time. That for over ten years just hovered above the troposphere, waiting for me to call it, him, her, down to existence with me. I guess that someone will no longer hover; that someone will be taken away by the jet stream, out into space, forever.

A part of me has survived, no doubt about it, but a little bit broken. Fingers, toes, a bit frostbitten, but nothing that won’t heal, albeit damaged, after some time has passed. I still function. I still contribute. I still will thrive.

I cannot say that a part of me is refreshed and renewed, not yet. I’m getting there, ever so slowly. Looking back, I think I was grieving before I knew I was grieving. The mountain climber knows that if he has survived the descent and the long trip home, he will most likely live to climb again. With each prayer, meditation, embrace, air in my lungs, feet on the pavement, I will too.

K2, the second highest and arguably deadliest mountain in the world.

 

February 27 | Burden

Burden

 

These few lines came to mind when I read the word for today:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

(Emma Lazarus, 1883)

And also these verses:

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and My load is light.”

(Matthew 11:29-30, NASB)

I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to determine the best person with which to share my burdens. Of course, my husband is one of those people. I have close friends and family members with whom I share burdens as well, and they are happy to help me carry them.

But I end up putting my burden-sharers on pedestals of expectation. I await responses in the form of calls or text messages, and get disappointed when they’re busy with other aspects of their lives, because how dare they not be able to help me every time I need help.

I know this isn’t healthy to expect so much from people. It’s good to have relationship with others, but there is only one Person who can perfectly share our burdens and perpetually make them lighter to carry.

Something interesting about the verses above is that Jesus didn’t promise us that we wouldn’t have burdens and loads to carry. But He did say that with His yoke, they would be easier to handle. That speaks volumes to me, and brings me peace in this life, which can often be grief-stricken.

I think something I can do better is first going to Jesus when I have a burden I can’t carry on my own… or for that matter, with any burden. And then, if it edifies or blesses another person, I can ask them to also help me.

“For Thou hast been my help, And in the shadow of Thy wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to Three; Thy right hand upholds me.”

(Psalm 63:7-8, NASB)

 

February 26 | Mystery

Mystery

Mystery in life is one thing that brings me peace. There are just some things we, even as humans, cannot understand or explain.

This used to drive me crazy. If we have science, why can’t we explain everything? We should be able to by this point in mankind’s existence. Now that I’m older and wiser (?), I find solace in the fact that not everything needs an explanation.

The trick is accepting that.

“Cease striving and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 (NASB)

That’s really all we need to know, that God is God. He is I Am. He is eternal and all-knowing, and we are not.

Even through the couple of years in college where I was questioning how to couple my faith with science, I never let go of that fact. Even during my intellectual strife, I had “I Am” in the back of my mind.

One thing I still struggle with is the saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” I don’t know if this is true. It’s really not comforting when you’re the one grieving. It’s probably the last thing you want to hear.

Maybe a better alternative would be, “I know you’re hurting right now, and we don’t know why this happened. Maybe one day we will know, or maybe we never will.”

Something I’ve been praying for lately is not for a specific outcome to my struggle. So many people want to pray for specific things, for us to have a baby. I mean, who would pray for us not to have a baby? But really, what I need in this time is peace and a continued trust in what God is doing.

I don’t need to strive to find all the answers, and I have limitations for what I want to put myself, and us, through, and I’ve reached those. So I’ll make peace with the mystery.

February 25 | Retreat

Retreat

My spirit breathes a sigh of relief when I see this word and picture. It reminds me of Colorado or New Mexico. For some reason, the mountains have always been equated with relaxation and wilderness.

Today on my run (I wasn’t planning on going, but ‘I just felt like running’) I had a slight hint of mountain-like air. It was about 50 degrees, humid, and breezy. The clouds were hanging low in layers. This type of weather was common on our day trips to Ruidoso, New Mexico. It made me want to curl up in front of a fire with a cup of tea.

While some may gawk at cloudy, rainy, breezy days, I relish in them. Having lived in the desert for several years, I came to love the days when I could run out the door without sunscreen or sunglasses, when the humidity would bring my skin and lungs back to life.

But, most days, I had to find my own retreat. I couldn’t just leave work in the middle of the day to drive up to the mountains, or take any weekend I wanted to drive even farther north to colorful Colorado. So I found retreat in the dazzling blue skies, and majestic sunrises, and even the hot dry summer days.

I think that in our walk with Christ, most days are generally not in a retreat mentality. We have work, and chores, and adulting to do. But if we are to grow closer to him in whatever ‘desert’ we’re in, we have to be open to moments throughout the day where we can have a retreat-like moment. Truthfully, we don’t even have to make it happen. But we need to make ourselves available, whatever that may look like.

February 24 | Wrestle

Wrestle

Every day on the Alive Now site, there’s a prompt. Usually I just write what comes to mind, but today I’ll answer the prompt in light of the word for today: “What is the prayer of your heart today?”

God,

I’m sorry for wrestling, for undermining your sovereignty in my life. Each day I see new mercy that you give for my shortcomings. You give grace every day, and some days I’m able to receive it. Other days I’m not, whether it be my own pride, my anxiousness, or even my unwillingness to receive it.

I’m sorry for wrestling against the work you’re trying to do. I pray for patience, and you give me opportunities to practice patience, and I complain. I pray for the ability to submit to my husband, and you give me opportunities to do this, and yet I complain.

Jesus, I want to be like you. I don’t want to wrestle with the will of my Father, but instead, I want to graciously complete it. I don’t want to wrestle with the minutiae of life, but I’d rather see the big picture. There’s more to life than hours worked, students taught, floors cleaned, and groceries purchased. Help me see beyond the insignificant into the extraordinary.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Running update.

I haven’t posted here about my running in a really long time. I’ve posted about running getting me through infertility, but I think this was the last real post about training. We (my husband and I) had signed up for the IMS Arizona Marathon because it was super cheap, and relatively close to where we used to live. Well, Valentine’s Day weekend came and went without us running that race, mostly because we live in Maryland now. So there’s that.

md462.jpg
View from a neighborhood run

I decided after the move that I needed to get back into training. For my body, for my mind, for fun. I don’t want this to be a post about infertility because honestly I’m sick of talking and thinking about it, but I gained 25 lbs in the past two years due to stress, taking time off of hard workouts, overeating, etc. I was starting to wallow… anyone who’s dealt with depression/anxiety knows how this works… and I was close to signing up for therapy again.

But, I’m happy to report that I’m out of my funk, thanks to running and a change of life circumstances, and God. Aaron’s no longer leaving for months on end, or working unexpected nights or 24-hour CQ shifts because now he has a ‘regular’ job. It’s fantastic. And amazing. And I’m so glad we got through the past 6.5 years with the Army for him to have this opportunity. I’m also working, but part time, and really enjoying the time it allows me to have to clean, cook, take care of things, but also to use my ESOL expertise. At first, moving to Maryland in the middle of the academic year was not my first choice, but it’s turned out to be a wonderful decision.

ssp1
Trails at Susquehanna State Park

So, with all that said, I’m running the Maryland Half Marathon in May. Not officially, as I haven’t signed up yet, but it’s on my calendar. Last week was week 3 of training, I think, and I ran 15 miles total. A Yasso 800’s workout, just a plain old run, and a long run of 6 miles. We bought new shoes this weekend so hopefully that’ll help some of the stiffness I’ve had in the first couple miles of my runs. Overall, I’ve been happy with my paces and my motivation to do each run. And the endorphins, you can’t forget the endorphins!

After the half, I’d like to train for a fall marathon, and then set my sights on a spring 50K. I’ve had this goal for most of my 20’s to do a 31-mile (50K) race before my 31st birthday, which will be next April. Barring injury or other crazy life circumstances, I don’t see why that can’t happen. And the Mid-Atlantic area is full of wonderful races to choose from.

February 23 | Freedom

I lace up my shoes and head out the door. I have a drive a little ways to get there, but I get out of the car, stretch, set up my watch, and I start.

There are hills, wind, and friendly faces. I start out with darkness, and then as I come around the final bend, I see the sun rising over the desert calm. Remaining clouds make a gorgeous dark silhouette against a fiery rainbow declaring the dawn of a new day.  A sense of freedom and true joy overwhelm me and my face softens.

I realize how blessed I am to move my body with all its systems working in tandem: heart, lungs, muscles, oxygen pumping through my veins. I think about the pure genius of our bodies’ design. I get chills even though it’s warm, even as my body is working to cool itself.

I start down the decline before me, exhilarated with the accomplishment of my legs getting over the mountain. I see the mountains as I’ve never seen them before. A strange beauty in the midst of the desert. I’ve found running water in the desert. I’m free.

“Place of Freedom” | Highlands Worship

There’s a calm that covers me
When I kneel down at Your feet
It’s a place of healing
It’s a place where I find freedom

There’s a place my eyes can’t see
Where my spirit longs to be
It’s a place of healing
It’s a place I live in freedom

I’m gonna lift my hands
Till I can reach heaven
I’m gonna shout Your name
Till the walls come falling down
I’ve come to worship
I’ve come to worship

There’s a love that lives in me
For You Lord my Savior King
Breaks the sin that’s binding
Leads me to a place of freedom

I’m gonna lift my hands
Till I can reach heaven
I’m gonna shout Your name
Till the walls come falling down
I’ve come to worship
I’ve come to worship
I’m gonna sing my song
Like I am unashamed
I’m gonna shout for joy
At the mention of Your name
I’ve come to worship
I’ve come to worship

There’s no one that can bring me peace
That can wash me clean
Like You Lord
There’s nothing in this world that can free me
You save my soul!

I’m gonna lift my hands
Till I can reach heaven
I’m gonna shout Your name
Till the walls come falling down
I’ve come to worship
I’ve come to worship
I’m gonna sing my song
Like I am unashamed
I’m gonna shout for joy
At the mention of Your name
I’ve come to worship
I’ve come to worship

February 22 | Prayer

Prayer

I’ve been a Christian for 16 years, and in the church for much longer. Prayer is something that I have yet to master. Sometimes, I feel like I’m just beginning to understand what it is and how to do it.

I’m reading  Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller throughout Lent, about 7 pages a day. The book starts off with what seems like a literature review of theories and stances on prayer. Something he includes is a comparison to learning language.

I’m an aspiring linguist, although since I graduated grad school, my linguistic knowledge is slowing waning except for what I use with my international/immigrant English students. But this struck a chord with me as Keller paraphrases and quotes Eugene Peterson:

“In the years since Peterson wrote, studies have shown that children’s ability to understand and communicate is profoundly affected by the number of works and the breadth of vocabulary to which they are exposed as infants and toddlers. We speak only to the degree we are spoken to. It is therefore essential to the practice of prayer to recognize what Peterson calls the ‘overwhelming previousness of God’s speech to our prayers.'”

Hmm. Interesting. And it makes sense. How does God speak to us? Through His Word. Basically, in order to develop our prayer life, we should first develop our Bible-reading life.

Reading feels passive to me. That’s why I love nonfiction, because at least in my mind I’m not wasting time by reading for entertainment – I’m reading to learn something. We learn about God by reading His Word, but it’s also good to just read and let it sink in and meditate on it. Then maybe we can know how to pray…. differently? more effectively?

I need to remember that the Bible is not just another book. It is the book.

Scriptures for the week: