"I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell: and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself." -CS Lewis, The Great Divorce


Thing #92: the running community

I went for my first run since Boston today. I've been thinking about it a lot, but I had not been ready to run, to be away from distraction for enough time to actually digest the information. Here's what I came up with:

I have not always been a runner. For years, I stood loyally on side streets, hills, muddy courses, in rain, snow, boiling heat, just to catch a glimpse of my brother, mom, or dad. And to yell really loudly. While the waiting was sometimes long, the cheering was largely filled with joy. I didn't go because I had to go; I went because I wanted to be there for them.

However, I was an avid non-runner. If anyone asked (and they often did) when I'd follow my family into running, I always replied that I would never run; I wasn't that crazy. I was a good cheerleader, anyway, why did I need to run?

Somehow, five years ago in August, I became a runner despite my repeated promises that I'd never run. Those first steps were more of a stumble, throwing one foot forward in a sort of painful lurching. It was only one mile, but that was all it took. I kept lurching forward until I reached two miles. At the end of August, I saw my family moving toward the finish line of a local half marathon, and I couldn't help but notice that they seemed happy to be have finished their runs. That night I pushed myself to three miles on my run, and I never looked back.

In October, I ran my first 5K, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in memory of a good friend's mom. I kept going with a 10K in November and a gift of half marathon entry for Christmas. In March, I ran my very first Shamrock Half Marathon. It was a spiritual experience; the volunteers on the course boosted my spirits as did strangers cheering along the course. In the last miles, my (much faster) younger brother, home from college to cheer me on, shuffled one and a half miles and pushed me toward the end. As he left me to finish my race, a stranger running next to me asked if I'd be ok making it to the end by myself. I cheerfully said, 'Yes!' but I never forgot that fellow runner's kind words and helpful actions.

It was that race that kept me going. I haven't always been diligent in my runs, but I do know that the Nike ad isn't wrong. Running has never taken more than it's given me. Even from the start, I have been embraced, even at my slowest pace, as a runner.

But even more so, the running community has given me more than I ever could have imagined. My running buddies - family mostly and a few good friends - have become my most trusted companions. I crave those long runs where we debrief the events of the week. But just as much - though I hate the early mornings - I love the excitement of the starting line of the races we prepare for on the long runs. I love the anxious jumping, the nervous smiles, the extended stretching routines. Mostly, I love the smiles, the conversations, the spirit of community.

As I have grown into this life as a runner, I have received encouragement and advice from strangers and friends. Last summer, at a low-key summer evening running event, I was one leg of a three-leg, three-mile relay. It was clear I was the slowest member of the randomly selected team, but I felt no annoyance from the other two runners. When I ran my mile faster than I predicted, I received only congratulations. It is that kind of support this community offers to ALL runners.

And so, when my running buddy texted me to tell me that there had been bombs at the Boston marathon finish, I gasped in the middle of the Kroger aisle. The community is why I cried when I saw the footage later that day. It's why I still can't fathom how evil crept into a day so full of joy. Why those people - those who I have been on many days - were targeted is something that I just don't understand.

As my dad said in a conversation today, the bomber could not have been part of the running community. There is no way anyone who interrupted a day of joy (and Boston is a day when many runners cast their thoughts North to the streets the runners trace in their 26.2 victory run) understands the positivity of the runners and their supporters.

As a runner, I have run in 100 degree heat, snow, pouring rain, wind so fierce I thought I'd fall over, and faultless sunshine. As a spectator, I've done the same. We are a tough bunch. We thrive on victories others can't fathom ( I ran a mile in 8:30! My hip doesn't hurt today! I didn't have to walk! I ran today even though it was a crappy day!). We cheer for silly moments ( She's still smiling, must be a good day! His arms are loose, running easy today! She's going to make her goal!). We are loyal, dedicated, obsessive. We don't quit.

And so, faceless bomber, nice try. We'll keep running and cheering.

As my family always says, "let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us." (Hebrews 12:1)

Today, I ran for Boston, but I also ran for all the runners and spectators to there who are just like me.


Thing #90: PURPLE.

This morning, I woke up to the news I had hoped to hear.  I, of course, seemed to be reading Facebook and Twitter posts from every angle possible.  And all of them seemed vaguely ANGRY.

I am hurt.  We forget that politicians are a small portion of the people who have a say in the nation's goings-on.  The people who truly make a difference are rarely the people in office.  We think only they must be held to a standard of change while we continue to bash one another in the same manner they modeled throughout the campaign season.

People, we are BETTER than this.  We must be, or my lack of faith in politicians should not lie in them but in US, the US who I thought could rise above political rhetoric, above shaming one another, above hate.

I recalled this map from 2004 this morning.  In 2004, I was saddened by the ultimate declaration of the defeat of the Democratic candidate, but I saw this map, and I was heartened.  We are not red and blue as the maps we saw last night or this morning indicate.


Today, I am grateful that I can remember that the line is so closely (and sometimes seemingly arbitrarily) drawn between Democrat and Republican that our nation turns purple when we consider percentages of the vote.

I pray that we can remember the purple.  I pray that I can continue to remember - regardless of the nasty social media posts - that we are not so different after all.


Thing #89 - A FREE country

I am a Christian woman fiercely convicted that education will make or break this nation, politicians must focus on bipartisan solutions, economic situations do not fix quickly, and we should worry about the "least of these."  I believe all people deserve the right to have their voice heard regardless of their native tongue or sexual preference. And they should be able to be legally married regardless of what you think YOUR religion has to say about it.  I come from a long line of Democrats on both sides of the family tree; I think like they taught me to think.  I do NOT vote like my husband, and it is not a quiet subterfuge; he knows that I disagree.

And today, I got to vote anyway.  Despite the fact that I declare an allegiance to a God and not a country (true, I won't say the pledge); wear a bra and jewelry to mark my gender; am married while maintaining a job and my own view of the world; and will declare my liberal upbringing to the world - THEY LET ME VOTE.

I am priviledged.  I am lucky.  I am rare in the long view of the world.

We are FREE.
Please, let us behave as though we are.


Thing #88: I AM

Yesterday, I came home from the youth fall festival and turned on OWN.  I am rather shamelessly in love with the programming (and I may be one of only a few).  Oprah's Life Class was on, and I normally don't watch, but something she said at the beginning caught my attention.  On this particular episode, Joel Osteen was the "expert."  I don't really like him.  There's something about his smile that creeps me out in ways only televangelists can.  Regardless, the overall message was "what you say after 'I am' becomes your reality."  Often, we say "I am slow, fat, tired, hungry, angry."  "I am the brunt of the world's badness."  "I am useless."  "I am nothing."  What we speak comes back to us, and that is the message we hear most loudly.  It seemed so simple. 

Last night before I went to bed, I wrote five "I am" statements that I want to be true.  These are not things that are always true right now, but I want them to be.  I want to BELIEVE them. 

I posted them on my mirror this morning. 

I realized that I needed to add, "I am THANKFUL" first of all.  It is the most powerfully true statement, and I need to be that first.


Thing #87: hope

Admittedly, today was rough. I dealt with my personal demon, anxiety. It sneaks up when I think I should be in control and am not. So, when it was very loud in the narthex waiting for church, when I didn't know what to do when we ushered during church, and when the youth were asking me what to do and I didn't know what to tell them, I felt VERY anxious.

But I realize there's always hope. I have been reading poetry from Garrison Keillor's Good Poems, and a few have spoken to me in particular. This one, entitled "Hope," really captures my feelings about knowing tomorrow can be better. My favorite line is "it is the singular gift/we cannot destroy in ourselves."

No matter how much damage I do to myself today with anxiety, self-hate, and anger, I cannot eliminate hope from my future or outlook. Today, I am so thankful for that small (but rather large) truth.


Thing #86: the long run

The last three weeks have been insanely packed with school stuff, fun stuff, and tough stuff. Unfortunately, they haven't included almost any running stuff.

Today, though, included a great long run. After not running more than 5.5 miles for three weeks, I had some anxiety about a long run and definitely about the Richmond half next weekend. Today, I ran a glorious 10 miles. It was chilly but great weather for a run. The average pace of the first 8 miles was an easy 11:15, but for the last 2, I picked it up to 9:23 and 9:07 pace. It felt so good.

So while I'm thankful for the long run, I'm also glad to have legs that'll take me that far, a beautiful state park to run in, and the blue sky to run under. It's good to feel like I'm fully alive.