Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 61 Endless

I ran long yesterday, too long to think too much about it before I began, measuring it out not in terms of miles but in landmarks, in sections, by snickers, and by where to get water.  Sometimes you just have to tie your shoes, start your watch, and plunge forward.  The road seemed endless, but it wove through the wonders of God’s handiwork.  I stand awestruck, continually amazed by the beauty, even on a foggy morning, even in the perfectly symmetrical  spider webs clinging to the barbed wire fences glistening with dew in the early morning light.  Beams of sunlight like spotlights penetrated the canopy of trees and reminded me that even in the darkest, densest turmoil of your life, God’s light will search you out.  There is nothing too deep.

I was breathing heavy up one of the steepest slopes on the road, gravity unrelenting, my energy flagging, my doubts about this running quest were rising, when I glanced into the dense brush surrounding me, and there quietly, silently gazing at me was a deer, just watching with its enormous eyes, as if he had been there all along, his invisible presence surprising me and prompting me to keep going.  The deer reminded me that God is here.  He has been here all along, silently waiting for me to look up from my drudgery and recognize Him.  I just wasn’t looking.  How much have I missed?  How often do I think that I am all alone in this?  His Presence makes all the difference.  His Presence changes everything.

I finished with tired legs and a deep thirst.  It was not just a run.  It is hardly ever just a run.

(written in my journal September 5)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 60 Back Off!

Last Saturday, I tucked two baby snickers in my pocket and headed out on a long, long run.  My beloved husband was going to follow along later on his bike for conversation and passing me an occasional water bottle.  As I headed down our street, barely two blocks from home, I first felt a twinge in my knee and then a block or two more, a sharper pain.  At this point, I knew that I was toast.  I pushed it for a couple more blocks and then realized there was no way I was even going to reach the next intersection.  Game over.  I began walking back, thinking that my running career was over.  I stopped and stretched a couple of times, and before I could reach home, my knee loosened up.  I turned around and began running again.  Just a fluke, I thought.

It is amazing how God has designed the human body.  When something is wrong, a warning system kicks into gear.  That warning system is called “pain.”  And the prescription for most athletes is to “back off.”  That evening and the next day, my knee hurt, and my hamstring was tight and tender.  I began Vitamin I therapy (Ibruprophen), iced my leg, added a couple of rest days, and then just jogged a short distance the past couple of days.  I didn’t have to quit completely, I just needed to back off a bit. 

And sometimes I just need to be aware that I am not running in life on my own energy either.  I need to back off and acknowledge Who keeps me going.

Blessed be the LORD

Who daily bears us up.

             Psalm 68.19

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 53 Cross the tracks now!

One of the best places to run around here is the Prairie Path, the very first rails-to-trails network in the nation, established in the mid-1960s, way before its time.  The path runs alongside the tracks of a commuter and freight train line out from the city to the west.  I have learned in our short while here, that when you have the opportunity to cross the tracks to get to the side you want to end up on, cross the tracks now.  The commuter trains are not so bad, but the freight trains last longer than a day at a swim meet (forever!).   And when encountering two freight trains going in opposite directions, one after another, you could finish reading (or writing) a short novel, waiting for them to clear the tracks.

This morning, the tracks were clear and I almost went on to the next intersection, but I crossed the tracks anyway.  Just as I passed over, the bells began to ring and the gates came down.  I was so glad I crossed when I did.  There was a freight train, long and slow.

It made me think of the countless times when I have put things off…oh, I can do that in a minute (or tomorrow).  And in that blink of time, the opportunity passes.  And I am stuck literally on the wrong side of the tracks.  I used to tell the girls, “There are many times that I have regretted not doing something ahead of time, but I’ve never regretted going ahead and doing it.” 

Pray for guidance.  Let God lay His day before you.  And follow Him into it.

He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry, when He hears it, He will answer you…And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.   Isaiah 30. 19, 21

Day 52 Last First Day

Twenty-three years ago this month, our first daughter began kindergarten.  Today, Tuesday, September 21, commences the last quarter of college for our youngest.  In keeping with family tradition, Hannah surprised me with a picture text this morning “Last first day of school.”  Whoa.  There may be additional schooling down the road, indeed, Laura begins graduate school this Friday, but the kindergarten to college marathon for our family is almost history.

It was the best marathon ever.  There were long stretches of hard pavement, hills, unpredicted turns, blisters and a few rest stops on the way.  There were a lot of brown bag school lunches, late homework nights, getting up ridiculously early (what school administrator thought up calculus at 7.15 in the morning?), and just missing the bus.  And throw in eight major moves, including three while the girls were in high school.  But it also meant cross country spaghetti dinners, Young Life in the basement, last minute sleepovers, prom hair headquarters in the master bathroom, camping with the family, and all the happy craziness of raising four daughters.  Yes, and as in marathon training there were many times that I asked, “What in the world am I doing?”  But I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

Today was the last first day. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 51 Didn’t see it comin’

On Saturday, I was scheduled to run 16 miles, which was my longest yet.  The training program is designed to push you just a little bit further each week.  I marked out the distance on the computer, noting that there were several drinking fountains on the way.  I shoved two baby snickers into the teeny tiny pocket of my running shorts, kissed my husband as he left for his office, and headed out.  It was a down and out course, meaning that I ran eight miles out and then turned around.  There were not as many runners on the path as I would have expected since the Chicago Marathon is coming up in just a few weeks.

And then when I reached the turnaround point, I realized why there were so few people enjoying the morning.  I felt a few raindrops, and then I looked up into the sky.  There was a thick black line moving towards me, and I was headed right into it.  Just maybe they are only heavy clouds, I tried to delude myself.  The wind picked up.  It started raining harder.  I gulped down my last snickers and jammed my ipod into that teeny tiny pocket with the hope that it wouldn’t fry by getting wet.  And the deluge began.  I had no choice.  I was seven and a half miles from home, and it was pouring.  I ran.  And yes, I thought, what in the world was I thinking when I signed up for this?  It rained hard for six miles.  I was soaked.  And now, two days later, my shoes are still damp.  But I ran.  And maybe next week, it won’t be so hard.

Throughout Scripture, God reveals His deliverance.  But He also reveals His strength.  Sometimes He will deliver you by pulling you right out of a situation, often just in the nick of time.  But sometimes it is in His plan for us to learn of His strength.  It is when we are in the deepest places that we realize the difference that God makes in our lives.  It is His strength that brings me through, not mine.   And as Stephen Curtis Chapman says in his song, “He is God, and I am not.”  Fear blinds us to the reality of God.  And where my dependence on God ends, the beginning of my fear begins.  He is there, even in midst of the storm.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea.  Psalm 46. 1-2

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 45 I Can Do Today

One day last week I was totally overwhelmed by the ENORMITY of training for this marathon.  Yes, I know that I can run it, because I have run it before.  But I also know what has yet to come and what must be done before it comes.  It is going to get worse before it gets better.  I am right on the edge of some really steep increases in mileage.  I can feel anxiety breathing down my neck and whispering fear into my ears.  But God reminds me of His words repeated over and over and over again in Scripture, “Do not be afraid.”  Just do what I need to do today.  Look at the schedule and don’t fret about what comes tomorrow or at the end of the week.  Do what you need to do today.

I can do that.  Sometimes I have to reach down deep to find the courage to even step outside the door or talk myself into going “one more block” until I get the long run done.  But I can do today.  Sometimes even tomorrow is too heavy to think about.  It will have to wait.  And instead, I focus on my daily bread.  That is what is on my plate today.  God gives the strength to do it even when, whoa, that road is a long one.  And I realize once again that the marathon is not about the race, but what leads up to it.

Take courage, sweet friends, because I know that some of you are going through things in life that would make a marathon look like a walk in the park.  

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3. 21-23

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Cast in a Different Light

When God is the Light by which we see,

           how do we view the world differently?




             Or divine appointment?