Seven miles.

Seven miles of clouds

Seven miles of cold

Seven miles of humidity

Seven miles of hills

Seven miles started with ‘it’s too cold’

Seven miles ended with ‘the cold is refreshing’

Seven miles started with ‘this view is boring’

Seven miles ended with ‘this view is home’

Seven miles started with ‘I can’t do this’

Seven miles ended with ‘I can do anything’

Seven miles started with ‘I’m hungry’

Seven miles ended with ‘I’m satisfied’

Seven miles started with ‘I’m weak’

Seven miles ended with ‘I’m strong’

Seven miles started with sadness

Seven miles ended with elation

Seven miles started with ‘this hurts’

Seven miles ended with ‘this heals’

 

 

aberdeen

 

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

Day 4 | Empty

Empty

The word ’empty’ usually has a negative connotation. For me, it doesn’t. The picture above reminds me of a abandoned storehouse of some sort close to my hometown. It’s out in the fields, all by itself, and it serves as a landmark on the local interstate. I always thought it was pretty in a shabby chic kind of way, like it hearkened back to a different time.

When Jesus was resurrected from His earthly tomb, the fact that it was now empty was cause for celebration. It had been abandoned because He now lives. Empty = positive connotation.

Part of my spiritual journey has taken place in my numerous pairs of running shoes in varying states of wear. Today I did my long run on the treadmill because it’s just too cold to do it outside. But I felt the same sense of emptiness after my run. Running, for me, is cathartic and empties me of not just sweat, but also bad attitudes, anxiety, and fear. It leaves me empty and ready to face the rest of the day.

When I was training for a half marathon a couple years ago, the running group I was part of met on Sunday mornings for the long runs. I would get up super early, drive to meet up with them in the dark. We would run and usually as we crested the top of the first big hill, we saw the sun rise in all its Southwestern glory. After the run, I’d shower and then go to church.

During that time as well, my husband was deployed, 7,000 miles away. I needed God tremendously during that time, and going to church after I’d spent my physical and mental energy running around mountains gave me an opportunity to really receive everything each Sunday morning. I came to church empty of my own wants, desires, and attitudes. I was vulnerable.

So, that abandoned building near the interstate is overgrown now with animals and foliage, I’m sure, but it’s empty of itself. It’s served a purpose and is now a vessel ready to be used or changed into something new.

Readings for today:

Lent 2016

Preliminary Thoughts

It’s been a very long time since I really recognized Ash Wednesday by giving something up or taking on a new habit. Growing up, this was an integral part of the church calendar as I grew up in a United Methodist church. Now, I find myself in a new season of my own spirituality. A season that I know will bring simplicity and a childlike faith back into my life.

These next 40 days will also be a season of healing. For nearly two years, my husband and I have been trying to conceive a child to no avail. However, now that we have completed our cross-country move and settled (to some extent), I feel like a new chapter is beginning and I don’t want to miss it. For the past several months, probably since the summer, I could tell that I was spiraling down into depression again. My anxiety was high. My trust in God was at a low. Most days I didn’t even know how I felt about Him or His promises. I engaged in worship, but to be honest, that has always been the easiest part of the Christian walk.

What am I going to be doing for the next 40 days?

First things first, I’m committing to a time of prayer, reading, and meditation every day. I have not be in a regular practice of doing these things every day for quite some time (besides the Bible app’s devotionals). During this time of healing and introspection I really need to be ‘plugged in’ to God’s Word and my communication with Him.

So, in order to accomplish that, I am not logging into Facebook or Instagram until after Easter. I should preface this by saying that I have lived in legalistic ways before and as a result, they killed my freedom in Christ. This is not for accolades or to go along with perhaps a popular thing to give up for this season. The reason is that I can spend hours, hours on social media, browsing, judging, and comparing my life to others. This habit has hampered my prayer/devotion life and my overall well being.

I am not going to be doing any food/drink fasts. I’ve done them in the past (giving up soda, giving up sweets, etc) and for me, it was a nuisance more than a sacrifice. By silencing the drama and noise of those two social media platforms, I know that my mind will be clear and my heart ready to receive.

My cousin Anita is sending out a prompt twice a week to me and many other people as a way to let us write our thoughts about our own spiritual journeys. She’s basing it off of the Lent Photo-a-Day Instagram Challenge. So every day, I will write about each of these prompts instead of taking pictures, and on Sundays and Wednesdays, I’ll write specifically about the prompt received in my email.

photo a day

I’m also going to be reading Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller. I recently completed a devotional on the Bible app that included excerpts from this book, so I decided to read it over the next several weeks.

Why would I read a book about something so ‘basic’ in the Christian life? Because I need help. I need to get back to a place of communicating effectively with God, and sometimes that requires going back to the basics, even if you’ve believed your whole life.

So, here it goes. As we go through this Lenten season, it will also become spring. I don’t think that is a coincidence, especially for this weary soul.

 

 

Hope never hurts.

The journey of infertility, at least for me, is not a test for my body to do biologically what it’s designed to do. I know that sounds counterintuitive. It’s a test of faith, much like other journeys we all go through.

I’m not making light of this journey. It’s difficult. It’s uncertain (especially if your diagnosis is “unexplained infertility”.. so scientific, right?). It’s lonely. When you get right down to it, it’s a stripped-to-the-bone roller coaster of elation, hope, disappointment, and depression.

In the year and a half we’ve been dealing with this journey, I’ve experienced all of those emotions. This summer was especially difficult. The baby announcements and family pictures posted by friends and family just did not relent. Even after cutting down my time on social media, I still felt the sting of comparison just thinking about how I did not have something that I, we, desperately want.

So I pushed it down. I threw my hands up in the face of hope and actually told my husband that we should just not have kids. Maybe that would be easier. Maybe that would be less painful. Then I could continue in my profession with few interruptions. Because DINK (double income no kids). Right, because money and trips and careers and things would fill in the gap in my heart for biological children, a perfect alchemy of genes from my husband and me.

Looking back on the long, hot, seemingly hopeless and emotional summer, I realize I wanted to not have kids so I could spare myself and my husband from the pain that is lost hope. I was tired of keeping my circle of family and friends updated, and wading through their comments, all well meaning, but just a real-life reminder of the place I was in. I was tired of being vulnerable, of being on the verge of tears more often than not, of pouring my heart out during worship and prayer times. I was rife with grief about asking over and over. Even though we continued to be faithful in attending church, I found myself pulling back and not wanting to get close to people because of the possibility of having to talk about this.

After vacation, I posted this entry, privately, and started really getting serious about training for a half marathon. I started back to work, no different physically than when I left in May. But something changed in my heart. I had that desire again for my own children, and I had the wherewithal to keep going. God has started to heal my heart.

In late July, my parents came to visit and towed a U-Haul carrying my most precious worldly possession: my great-grandmother’s piano. I started playing a little, and my hands flew over the keys as if we’d never been apart. That was part of the healing. I started playing keys and singing alto on the worship team at my church, and there I’ve been discovering more healing.

I’ve been able to talk to a few more people about this journey, and for once I don’t stiffen with offense with people ask me, So, do you guys want kids? Instead, I answer truthfully that Yes, we do. We’ve been trying for awhile and nothing yet. But we have hope.

More often than not, people have a similar story. Maybe they were never able to have their own children. Maybe they are suffering from secondary infertility. Maybe they’re considering the long arduous road to fostering or adoption.

This journey that the enemy has tagged to steal, kill, and destroy our hearts and hope actually can be a bright spot in the world for people with like circumstances to come together and support each other. And that’s why I’m “coming out” with our infertility. Not because I want pity or accolades or any of that. But because there’s no reason for it to be secret. It’s not shameful; we did nothing wrong. It’s an unfortunate circumstance, but in the midst of it I’ve found peace and hope and contentment, and I want others to know that they can, too.

I won’t lie: I have wished that when I finally shared this, I would be pregnant and therefore have “overcome” infertility. I’ve been waiting to get some family pictures done (none since 2009) until I have a “baby makes three” announcement to show off as a physical reminder of our love.

Life goes on. We keep praying and hoping and pursuing answers to the “unexplained.” We cry, we grieve the children that we actually may never bear biologically. There is one thing that is for sure: I will come out of this journey with my faith intact. The loss of hope, the wound of depression, the panic of anxiety, none of these things will take away my faith in an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God, who through it all, refines us to make us more like Christ.

And that is the mercy for every mile of the journey.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because he cares for you.

I Peter 5:6-7