Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Running My Race: Part 1

I recently signed up to run my first half-marathon. I'm more than a little behind in training, because I dragged my feet for weeks before finally committing to it. But $59 tells me that yes, I am committed.

Now, here is one very important thing to know about me: I am a quitter.

It's true! I could make a profession out of quitting things. My home is full of unfinished plans and projects. I can think of very few times in my life where I've set my mind to do something and actually saw it through to completion. I would love to have the stick-to-it attitude that I admire so much in others, but I don't.

In this case, however, I am quite literally surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. A group of awesome ladies from my awesome church have banded together to run/walk/jog/crawl this half marathon as a group, in the spirit of giving our bodies back to the one who created them. We have come to the understanding that we are not our own - we were bought with the blood of Jesus. What we do with the bodies we have been given is not merely a physical act (or lack thereof) - it is spiritual. My body and my spirit cannot be separated - I am one being, created by God for his glory and his purposes.

There's a whole lot of theology in there that I am just beginning to understand, and I won't get into it right now (listen here - "Plato and the Prostitutes" - for some real wisdom on this subject). But suffice to say, I've gained a lot of new understanding that has changed my perspective on health, fitness, wellness, and yes - running!

So, I signed up. To run. I know that I can stop and walk as much as I need to, but I really, really want to run the whole 13 miles. To some of you, 13 miles is nothing. I have friends who run marathons, after all. But to me, it's a formidable task. I ran track in high school - very poorly. I once came in dead last at league meet - and there are a lot of runners in a league track meet. I ran 8 miles, once, a couple of years ago. I run here and there, but not consistently. I have definitely not been in training.

But I am determined. This time, I am going to see something through to the end. I ran 6.5 the other day, and I felt great! I was slow, and it was flat, but it was wonderful to actually enjoy myself. Yesterday, I ran three miles, fast, and I wanted to die. So as I ran, I thought through the (new) reasons that I am running:

I am running to get into shape. My body isn't nearly as healthy as it should be, and I want to be strong and fit. I have big kids to lug around.

I am running to look good for my husband. Call me shallow, but I want to fit back into my favorite jeans without having to camoflauge my lovely muffin tops. I want my husband to feel proud of his hot wife.

I am running because it gives me a few moments to be alone, to pray and worship and think and listen, without the constant noise and needs of two little kids.

I am running, if for no other reason, out of obedience. God's word instructs me to glorify God in my body (1 Cor 6:20), and to be disciplined and self-controlled (Gal 5:22). I know that if God says it, it has good purpose. I want whatever he has for me. I want to run my race.

I am halfway to a goal that still feels daunting, but no longer impossible. After all, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Phil. 4:13)." Are you running your race?

Now, not to get

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

He Satisfies

"You open your hand 
and satisfy the desires of every living thing." Psalm 145:16

I have spent much of the past year learning how to be satisfied in Christ. In sermons, in Bible studies, in conversations with friends, in my time in the Word, this theme has appeared again and again. Satisfaction. Satiety. Fullness. Contentment.

I have gleaned so much wisdom from pages and people about what my true needs are (the needs that God created in me), and about how to allow him - and only him - to meet those needs. I am learning - slowly, painfully, clumsily - how to surrender my "felt needs" to the Lord. I have been stunned to find just how deeply and how fully he satisfies me, if I let him.

I could write volumes about this topic alone, and I will share much more of this part of my journey down the road. But today, I want to share an illustration, from my very recent past, of how He satisfies.

April is Birthday Month in our home. For some reason, God saw fit to bless me with two darling boys, and in the process to wipe my birthday off the face of the map. My kids were born on April 15 and 20, and my birthday is April 22. Three b-days in one week. To top it off, this year saw Easter falling on the 23rd. 

In short, in one week we had Chuck-E-Cheese (gag), the zoo, Big Al's Bowling, two family birthday dinners, one big birthday party, and Easter. Imagine the sugar.

I, of course handled it all with complete grace.

(Sorry, I can't even type that with a straight face.)

Okay, I started out with grace. I had been steadily studying the Word every morning for months. I repeated Proverbs 12:18 and Ephesians 4:2 over and over, to prepare myself for the inevitable conflicts and stress that would come. 

But then, I let it go. Things got crazy, and I got worn down, and I chose - because it is a choice, no matter how busy or exhausted I feel - not to rise that extra half-hour early and anchor myself in God's word. And I chose that for several days in a row. And by the end of the Birthday Week, as we drove home from taking our little boy bowling for the first time, all of my grace was gone. All of the emotions, the little irritations and the inconveniences, the bittersweetness of my two boys turning another year, the physical and mental fatigue - all of the things that I should have been bringing to the Lord - washed over me in wave after bitter wave. I had a Major Mommy Meltdown, and I unloaded onto my husband what can only be described as a whole lot of crap.

Now, there was truth in all of it. How I felt was real and understandable. But what I felt like I needed - to be pampered, adored, acknowledged - was really just what I wanted. What I needed, more than anything else, was the sweet presence of the Lord. I needed to cast my cares on him. I needed to sit at his feet and learn from him. I needed the power and strength and satisfaction that can ONLY come from time with him. 

So the next morning, I rose extremely early, and resumed my rhythm. I curled up in my favorite chair with my Bible and my journal, and let his words wash over me. I read Psalm 103, and soaked in my favorite part: "... who satisfies your desires with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's (v. 5)." I wrote down every single thing that was weighing heavily on my heart, and I gave it up. (Which is not easy - much more on that later.) I read, and read, and read. I had some catching up to do.

And of course - of course - He satisfied me. God filled up the weary, empty cavity of my soul with his grace, his mercy, his strength, and his power. By the time Easter dinner rolled around, my children were into their post-sugar-and-present-binge meltdowns, my husband was puking his guts out in the bathroom (flu - not my cooking), I was eating ham by myself at the kitchen counter, and surveying the utter wreckage of my home. I still felt exhausted (frankly, I still do). I still wanted to crawl into bed for three days. I still swore that my next baby will be born in the fall. 

But, I smiled. Deeply satisfied.

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; 
my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. 
My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him."  
                                                                                                                              Psalm 28:7