Time

This morning my eldest commented that she can’t believe January is almost over.
I’ve been thinking about time lately and its oxymoronic quality of being so unchangeable and so fluid all at the same time.
It’s been six months since my surgery. Six months since I sat in a recliner for weeks on end and felt the walls closing in around me while the world marched on and I struggled to walk the 1/4 mile stretch down my street. Only six months and also only six months?

Four months ago, five ladies, some of whom I’d never met, set out to start a little ministry blog. In one of those instances where it’s very good that God only gives you as much information as you need to make one step (if that), we had no idea. No idea what we were doing, where we were going what in the world could happen next.  One of us had a vision and the rest of us latched on.  We’ve been tobogganing down Everest ever since, sharing screamy laughter and leaping over and swerving around deadly obstacles and somehow enjoying some kind of wild unpredictable ride.  Only four months, and somehow, it seems like I have been part of this magic with these people for a lifetime.

Three and a half years ago when everything fell apart, I would beat myself up for not “getting over it” faster. I detested the process of healing and forgiving, but there was no way around it, only through, or being stuck in the mire of bitterness forever. Sometimes I crawled and sometimes I soared, and thirty-one days ago I symbolically cut the umbilical cord that tethered me to that other life, and truly, like the rising of the sun, we are done with that darkness. God has answered all He will, and while wicked scars sometimes stretch and ache, they no longer break open and bleed. Just like that…only yesterday, three years ago.

And so it is that God is bringing me to the first big hurdle that we will tackle in my year of running. We’re going to handle time. How He gives it; how I use it, or waste it. As free as I feel running, I expect to feel equally as restricted by keeping time rather than squandering it. I somehow knew that the physical running would be the easiest part of this theme.

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Excuses

I never MEAN to go a week without writing. Writing is such a funny thing. Sometimes words skitter around in my brain. They coalesce into glistening soap bubble thoughts and phrases and I think to myself, “Oh yes, that’s really good!” But soap bubbles are so ephemeral that if I don’t catch them at the moment they float by they tend to disappear.  I sit and stare at a blank page opening all the drawers and closets of my mind and cursing minimalism because obviously someone else besides me is to blame. I blame Middle Places a lot too.  I blame kids and home school and life and facebook and real books, but the reality is that like anything else, if its important enough we will find the time to do it.

It is important, but it’s also a little bit scary, like riding the crest of a wave that could come crashing down at any moment, driving you ankles over ears into the sand, or worse yet, tumbling you round and round underneath it while never quite letting you reach the surface for that desperate gasp of air.  It’s also like a new-born child which you grew inside you, feeling it move and kick, flip and develop, occasionally hearing it’s whispery heartbeat. You wait so long for it to arrive, sometimes the labor is long and intense, sometimes it slides right out with barely an effort, but either way it’s every bit yours and oh-so-fragile and new.  But there’s always the chance that someone is going to stare at it slightly aghast and ask why does his nose look like that. Then you are caught between committing murder and running away to hide in a cave with your precious, perfect baby where no one will ever hurt you again.

It is like that too.

It’s work and it hurts sometimes.  It’s a little bit scary because no one else anywhere, ever will see things the exact way I do.  Which is why it’s important to share, which is why it’s ripe for criticism and critique.  Sometimes it skates across scars and pulls thorns from my heart and I bleed a little bit.  Sometimes it stands on the edge of a cliff and dares me and everyone else to just take one more step. Sometimes it flies free soaring over all the things that wait underneath to catch it and drag it down.

Oh yes, I have a million excuses.

But the words will leak out, like giggles when you aren’t supposed to be laughing, or the tears that prelude the big ugly cry. They tumble out the cracks of my pretty, pretty mask and lie there in brittle honesty on the table before me.

And I must catch them, my precious babes, and lay them gently down on paper so that I can see the world aright again.

Thoughts after 50 Miles

I was having some undeserved guilt earlier this week about running.  Running has literally consumed me this month. I am determined to start my 1,000 miles plan off strong, but distance has not been my strong point up to now so I have to run often, near daily. I have to keep track of miles and rest and what I eat, when I eat, weather today, weather long term, what obligations might keep me from running and how to plan around that. I’m not sure what other activity has ever consumed me for this long in this many ways.  Running is almost always in the back of my mind somewhere.  God didn’t send an easy theme or an easy physical representation of that theme: Run. I run. I think about running. Lately I dream  about running.
Paul compares the life of being a Christ follower to a race. I finally understand why, because the training that the race involves is entirely consuming. There is no part of my life that won’t later be balanced against what I gave, or didn’t give, to my training.  It’s when I think about this that I begin to have guilt for the consumption of my mind with something as mundane and really unimportant (in the scheme of things) as running. But then the Holy Spirit whispers to me that it is of importance because it’s what I have been given for now.  The work is hard. I gasp. I push. I give up only to make myself start running again. Each week I go a little farther and then farther still. I have a friend, a new wonderful, humble inspiring friend who runs every. single. day six miles or more. She runs when the sweat freezes on her. When the rain pours down, she runs. I want to be that dedicated, and that strong, not because I want to be like her -though I do, a little bit- but because that strength and dedication, that willingness to push through are qualities to be desired in my character.

Running is what I’ve been given and it is not unimportant.

I’m looking forward to the time when running is more part of who I am and less part of what I do so that my mind can dwell on other things, but then again, singlemindedness is another attribute to which we are called. Perhaps I’m not so far off the mark after all.

Little Things

Feet

It’s a little thing,

really

a pebble in my shoe

on a long run

Distracting at first.

Destructive finally.

Left to its own devices

Crippling

Causing me to hobble

limp

halt

To continue is to risk

permanent injury

Perhaps

failure to finish.

It slips and slides

sometimes lost

in spaces.

But perfectly poised

it pounds flesh

exerting pressure

far beyond its

apparent magnitude.

It’s just a little thing

tiny, really

Easy to ignore.

Except when it isn’t.

The Doing of Things

I have planned for several days to sit down and write here, again. Only I haven’t. I haven’t because the last thing I posted about Encouraging Words received a fairly impressive (read: intimidating) number of hits and I simply couldn’t figure out what to say that could  follow that up.  So I sat, and I looked, but I didn’t write.

Earlier tonight while the Hunky and I were making dinner I exclaimed “Whoo-hoo! We followed our budget and squeezed all our pennies perfectly this week!”  His response? “Whoo hoo for one whole week (insert sarcasm here).”  But as I was explaining my thoughts on baby steps, and each day, each choice mattering all on its own, I realized that I haven’t even been taking my own theory to heart. First of all, just because we had a great week this week, doesn’t mean I can expect the whole rest of the year to float by on that one attempt. I have to get up tomorrow and repurpose to follow our plan. And the next day. And the next, until there is another perfect week, then a month…I think you follow. Just because today was great day for our goal, doesn’t mean I can walk away from the rest of the days.

I’ve also purposed to run 1,000 miles this year. I’ve been pretty impressed with myself. Not before running though, before running it’s cold, and I remember how hard that hill is. My calves chime in with their soreness, and this dadgum germ that is flirting with me rears its head and I. just. want. to. not. go. today.  But I do go. I throw back the covers.  I put on my clothes and shoes. My feet hit the pavement, and I’m running.  Every morning. It’s not because I feel like doing it, because I love getting out of bed into the freezing temperatures (though I do love running once I am actually doing it, and mostly when it’s down hill).  Each day, a little bit more until 50 miles is peeking at me, right around the corner.  That’s more than I’ve ever run in a month. Each mile, each day, each week the miles stack up and suddenly, that thousand miles isn’t as scary as it was when I stepped out for the first step. But I had to do the thing, and I’ll have to keep doing the thing, day after day, mile after mile, because this first good chunk isn’t 1,000 miles and it won’t turn into a thousand miles left on its own.

At the end of last year I made the declaration that this year would have “office hours,” time each day that I would sit down and actually write something every single day.  So here we are.  Three weeks into the year, and I haven’t put in even one single office hour. I have a million excuses: my desk isn’t as clean as it ought to be, I don’t know what office hours should look like, I don’t know what I should write about, there’s dirty laundry… They are all valid. And all crap. The only way I’m ever going to make this writing thing a habit is to do it. Every day. And the next. And even the next. Until the days and the words add up, and I can look back upon them rolled out behind me and say, “These are the words I had to share, and  they mattered. Maybe not to everyone but to someone. To me.”  So yes, the last thing I wrote got a lot of attention. This one…well, it’s less inspiring and practical and more the maniacal ramblings of someone who grapples daily with discipline and spends most of her time in fuzzy jammie pants.  Here we are thirty minutes later than when I sat down. I’ve done this thing. Today. And tomorrow…I’ll be back again.

Where Seldom is Heard a Discouraging Word

I’ve had some vicious words spoken over me.

Like a tapeworm they hatched in my heart, burrowed into the muscle tissue and grew. And reproduced. They made me sick for a long time.

I’m ashamed to admit that I retaliated with more vicious words. If someone tried to destroy me then I should try to destroy them twice as much, as though that would solve anything or heal anyone, or in some way flush the poison from my own soul. It did not.

I think what began to change everything for me was when I really purposed, not just gave lip service, to stop complaining ( http://www.acomplaintfreeworld.org is the place the start).  I began to really investigate the power of words. As a wordy girl, this sort of thing was right up my alley anyway. I began learning that words are not just a vehicle of communicating. They are in fact powerful tools that can shape a day, a year, a life. They can be strong foundations or wrecking balls. They can uplift and inspire or slowly poison and destroy. Words matter. How they are used matters. Like it or not, our words will define us to large portion of the people with whom we come in contact.  And I get to decide what that definition will be.

After a time I went deeper than just the complaining – the layers of that were many and disgusting. I looked at how I speak both to and about people, about whether what I say here at my keyboard is something I would say to someone’s face. I dismissed the concept of “healthy venting” and recognized it as the verbal vomit of discontent that it is. I examined all the times someone said something and I then made it all about me: why I thought the opposite of them, how I was obviously right. I thought about opinions and tirades and vitriol and passion.  I considered the peace of keeping my own counsel and the confidence of holding an opinion without forcing others to hold it too.  Though this paragraph is short, I assure you, these thoughts and observations took months, even more than year to arrive here. where I am today.  Where is that? Imperfectly walking this life path. I have bad days. I mutter under my breath sometimes, sling that sarcastic slam, engage in dispute rather than accepting diversity. I’ve apologized for my mouth a million times. But, I’m making progress, each day a little lighter and more loving than the last.

I’ve developed some personal word observations/ guidelines for myself, and for you to read should you wish:

  • Words really are either life giving or poison. It’s better to limit exposure to poison people. This can be done, and it doesn’t have to be mean or obvious. Step quietly away. The more poisonous the person, the less likely they are to notice.
  • It’s ok to disagree, to even strongly disagree and say nothing. It will probably be appreciated.
  • It’s ok to walk away from being directly asked your opinion if you know it won’t be respectfully received.
  • Encouraging words are profoundly powerful, yet somehow they seem to weigh less than negative words. Therefore, they should be spoken often and enthusiastically.
  • Joyful people attract joyful people. It’s ok that some of those joyful people vote differently from you.
  • I don’t have to have the last word.
  • When in doubt, say something nice. If you can’t do that, shut up.
  • Believe that everyone has the best intentions, it spares a lot of drama and misunderstanding.
  • Say I’m sorry when you’re wrong. Say it as soon as possible.
  • Take every opportunity to tell someone you love them.

I’ve used my words to belittle, gossip, vilify and curse in the past. But I don’t have to be that person if I choose.  I want to be seen as joyful and loving, an encourager and life-bringer. I want my words to be worthy of remembering when I am no longer here.

I choose life with my actions and with my words.

The god of stuff

God is working on me in big round numbers this year. Emphasis on BIG and Round. Most of them have zeros, my running goal has a lot of zeroes. I think of it only in single digit increments right now. It’s just easier that way. Anyway, last year I purposed at one point to whittle my belongings down to 100 things. See? Big number, lots of zeroes, only not so big when talking about things that I own, and use. I never did get around to that level of minimalism, I blame my brother getting cancer. I’ve had seventeen years of practice, so I can blame pretty much anything on cancer at this point.  But lately that number, 100, and that concept, narrow it down, narrow it down further, narrow it down as far as I can, are back in my head and rolling around uncomfortably in my heart.

100 Things. Oy.

I’ve been sold on the concept of minimalism for over a year now. It’s changed how I look at culture, church, education, marriage, parenting, everything, radically.  And we’re blind to it.  I’ve been blind to it, because I’m immersed in a world that screams the opposite message. Immersed in a culture that teaches that we need the right education from the right schools so we can get the right high paying job to drive the right cars and buy the right starter house, and then the right bigger house and the right vacation house.  We have to wear the right things and play the right sports and even take part in the right recreation and vacation spots. Oh, and what defines “right” in this scenario is trend and price tag.  What’s right today won’t be so right next year so we’ll have replace what we already own with the next right thing so we can keep up with everyone else who is upgrading around us.
I became exhausted just writing that.

Somehow it’s become not just accepted but expected for us to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, constantly, in the name of home ownership, higher education and keeping our children popular and entertained.  It’s the most ridiculous circus ever invented, and we are all vying for the most show stopping act.

We worship the god of stuff. We’re literally sacrificing our lives to it. We go to work to buy the things we can’t use or enjoy because we’re so tired from working so hard to pay for the stuff. We’re bleeding ourselves dry to maintain an image that makes no difference to anyone but ourselves and the “god” we’ve created. It’s all smoke and mirrors in the devil’s attempt to distract us from anything remotely important, let alone the One of eternal importance.

So what is paring down to 100 things going to do change of that? Probably very little. Except that already, I see little tendrils of change growing up in the lives of people with whom I spend my life. Not because I’m good, or special, but because living this way has brought me great joy, tremendous, bountiful, wonderful freedom, and the ability to say with authority,”there is a better way.” I could probably do all of that without paring down still further, but 100 things challenges me to continue to evaluate, to peel back every layer and search every dark corner to burn out little gods that are still entrenched there. The world has enough trouble without self sabotage from within.

Yes, 100 things might be just the perfect number for this year of round numbers, biblically 10 and multiples of 10 signify completion and wholeness. I can always use a bit more of that in my life.