Thursday, February 9, 2012

Prayer. And sweat.

I was talking to a woman at the gym earlier today, and she was griping a bit about how she's working so hard and not seeing much progress. She said she gained another pound (and I helpfully piped in the cliched but often true, "maybe you're just transforming the fat to muscle" which she knew), and yet doesn't seem to see any shrinking in inches. And this time I kept my mouth shut, because I've never been in my early fifties with menopausal hormones crashing in and the body changing, again, before my eyes and in my almost 30 years, perhaps I've finally learned to keep my trap shut when I don't know what I'm talking about. But then she said, "But hey. If I hadn't been working out, maybe I would have gained 3 pounds instead of just one."

And that just got the wheels spinning. Exercise seems to be a lot like prayer. Putting aside the myriad of comparisons to be made between physical and spiritual discipline, it just occurred to me:

Sometimes we pray and we pray and we pray... and nothing happens. And we say, "But God, I prayed and prayed and prayed and nothing happened."

And He says, "That was the gift."

Exercise keeps us from all manner of disease and illness and injury that we can't have known we're being saved from because they don't happen.

This is nothing new. No new revelation here.

Just once again, I'm marvelling in the gift of incarnation. Not even just THE Incarnation, but mine as well. I woke up in this incredible thing one day almost 30 years ago, this body, and it's infuriating and doesn't work right, and even the few systems I'm intelligently in charge of I don't run properly a disappointing percentage of the time. But I find Him here. In the first gift He ever gave me.

Monday, November 14, 2011


You would have been due a year ago today, child. You might have been a sturdy, drooling, adorable one year old today.

I mark this day, today, in some deep silent part of myself. I thought about telling someone, reminding someone, saying, "Hey, today is..." Today is what? It seems like a marker of nothing. But for you and me, my sweet lost little one, we know it's not nothing. I treasure you still, even if it's only me and your Father above who remember.

Everything is different today than it was a year ago.

I live in a different house, and your father and I have barely spoken in months. He has the little bunny I bought for you. I didn't fight him when he told me he was keeping it. He loves you and wanted it. And I surrendered it. I had as much choice in that surrender as I did in yours, and child, I miss you...

I grew up a lot this past year. It was a year of life lessons. But I would have rather been your mother than this much older and this much wiser.

We are told to give thanks in all things, and little one, believe me, I do. I'm thankful I had you those weeks. I am thankful that the God who gave me you and took you home is so near to me. I am thankful for the friends He has given me and the family He has given me. Your grandparents are uncle are amazing people and I am thankful that we have become so much closer.

Little one. I don't really know what to say.

I'm remembering you today.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The race

We got up at 4:45. We left for the city at 5:15.

There were thousands of people milling around, waiting for the bathrooms, pinning numbers to their chests, warming up, chatting. It was exciting. I was nervous til I got there. Then, I just wanted to run.

The weather was perfect. The morning was perfect. Gorgeous. Perfect.

We were led to the start line in waves, according to our predicted finish times. I was in the purple group. And then we started running.

It took about 10 steps for me to fall in love. I felt great and the atmosphere was exciting. There were thousands of runners and even more spectators. The sun was rising, and around mile 1, I realized it was Sunday. And yes, there was more than a little Shabbat Shalom coursing through my veins.

Miles 1, 2, 3, and 4 just fell away. I felt mile 5, like I thought I would. There were a few ups and downs in mile 6, and at the water stop in mile 7, I asked what mile we were on. Seven was where I thought I was, and it was just about right. Mile 8 was as hard as I thought it would be, and there was a "Holy hell, who the heck put this here" hill in mile 9 that most people walked up. I muttered "Not walking a step of this" in my head and plugged my way up. The leg stretch, relief and exhilaration of the downhill on the other side made it totally worth it. I'd earned that downhill float. I almost cried when I passed the 10 mile mark. I'd never been farther than that before, and the satisfaction there went so deep. The realization that there was only a 5k left made me almost drunk through mile 11. Mile 12 hit like a train. The road curved back and forth, and the side-to-side grade made first my right leg and then my left leg burn. The sun was in my eyes and I got grumpy, wanting only to sit down for a damn minute. But there was that low steady voice in my head saying, "You've got this. You're strong enough. You've got 10 minutes of this left. Easy." So I put my head down, listened to what I knew was true, put one foot in front of the other and then the mile 13 sign was visible, the road curved up and to the right, and I started to hear the announcer at the finish line, the roar of a crowd and I ran. And I was in love again. Before the finish line even passed below my feet, I was in love. I was stunned at the finish line. It was one of the sweetest things ever.

I ran the whole dang way. All 13.1 miles. It was worth it every mile, even the ones that burned, the ones that ached, and the ones that about knocked me on my butt. I think the hardest ones were the ones I loved the most.

I am alive and it's a really good thing.

One thing that was amazing was that our bibs had not only our numbers on them, but our names. The race route was almost entirely lined with spectators, and so many of them cheered for you by name. There's nothing like hearing someone belt out, "You've got it! Good job!" at about the moment I was wishing I had one of my buddies running by me. We can stand in for each other sometimes and it counts. It counts more than I could have imagined.

I don't think about my own name much. But you know how it is. Or is there anything more encouraging than the sound of your own name shouted when you're about to drop over? Is there anything more comforting than the sound of your own name spoken by a person who loves you?

It was a great race.

Oh. Finish times. I went into it with a 3-tier goal. Anything under 2:05 would have left me delighted. Anything under 2:10 would have been satisfying. Anything over 2:17 would have been disappointing. I finished in 2:04:57. :)

Without a doubt, one of the very best things I've ever done.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


It's Wednesday night. On Sunday morning, I'll run a half marathon.

I'm nervous. It's not like it's something I've never done before (but it is - I haven't). It's not that I think I'm going to fail (I don't). I know I'm allowed to walk a tenth of a mile here and there if need absolutely be. But need, real need, won't be. I've run 10 miles before, and I know I can do another three on top of it. I know it'll hurt, and I'm prepared to deal with that. I know where to file away the "ouch" and the "tired".

I know which voice in my head to listen to. The one that says low and steady, "You are stronger than you think you are. You are ready and I'm proud of you and you can do this."

I just want to be there. I want to shiver in the early morning chill. I want to stretch my quads and touch my toes and line up my playlist. I want to hear the siren and take the first step. I want to feel the first two miles fall away and know I have another 4, easy, before I hit another wall and have to "easy", "breathe", "drop your shoulders", "look at the sky", "breathe", "breathe", "breathe in now", "breathe out NOW". I want to be in that moment when I remember the choice I've already made to run the whole way and choose again, when it hurts, to do it. I want to be a body moving, carrying a mind, sorting out the wrinkles in a soul. I want to taste what all this work is for. I want to be stunned at the finish line.

I want to be there.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

And when...

And when I look at myself today, I find that I am drastically different than I might have been. Every now and then I have moments like this. I remember almost 2 years ago, I went on a trip with my brother to VA, and I realized while there who I really was at that point, and realized who I might have been had things worked out differently, and I realized that the two different possible "me"s would hardly have even been able to converse.

And today I find a similar experience in my hands.

I would have been due today.

Instead, I am lean, leaner than even my wedding day. I bought new bras today because the girls have shrunk with all my running. I am capable of running ten miles.

I have new virtues, and I'm coddling a new set of vices as well. Those are the biggies - bigger even than defined muscles and disciplined endurance. The who I am has changed over the last seven months for good and for ill.

I want a priest and I want a blanket.

Today I'm missing someone I never got to meet.

Maybe two someones. Maybe I'm missing the me I might have been as well.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The body

A few weeks back, I took my stepkids down to my brother's Nazarene church. He's a youth pastor there, and he was preaching that Sunday. Before I go any further, I have to say, his sermon was brilliant. My baby brother has turned into quite a guy, and I'm very proud to know him.

And while there, the wheels started to seriously turn. I've been mulling it over ever since.

One thing that was weird was how foreign that service felt to me. I grew up in an Anglican church, then went Evangelical non-denom for quite a while before quitting church (though not the faith) altogether for a while and then becoming (though not official yet) Orthodox. It was strange to struggle to find goodness and truth in a church, but I did in his. Struggle, that is. And find it, actually, eventually, also. I told myself over and over at the beginning that it's not for me to be a connoisseur of churches, that all goodness and truth is God's goodness and truth, and not to miss it by it being buried in a bunch of "stuff" that I just don't understand anymore. But it was hard and uncomfortable and foreign, and so much of what they assume is so far off the mark as to be downright harmful to a person trying to learn to love God and neighbor.

But the first thing that hit me is this. We sang the song "Breathe" which at one time was a very meaningful song for me. And I have to say, my heartstrings immediately shot down to a little town in Virginia to a woman who is very far away and so very very dear to me. And I said a prayer of thanks for her - for who she is and who she is to me. She is a giant in my life and in case you're reading this, B, I love you. Consider yourself hugged. But my dear friend, that song is empty for me now. God is simply not so far away, and I can't pretend He is, and I won't imagine He is, and I couldn't sing a song that created more space than it had ever diminished. Desperation is not an emotion I experience when it comes to the presence of God.

And that was the first stunner.

And then I started thinking about what redemption is, and how it happens. Or rather, how it's happened for me.

And I've come to this. Bodies are very important things. Holy things, even.

I sat in the church, listening to my brilliant brother, with my stepson under one arm and my stepdaughter's head on my lap, and I thought about the miracles that were nestled up next to me. It is hard to parent them. It's not what I imagined in all my rosy daydreams, and stepparenthood is not what I had planned for myself. I wanted my own children. (Silly thing, I had to lose one to learn that she would have only been "mine" in a very limited sense. She would have always been God's first, her own second, and mine only third, and only for a while.) But those two little people in those two little bodies are absolutely essential to my working out my faith with no small amounts of fear and trembling. They are the rolling pins that are working out so much of the selfishness and impatience that wrinkles me up inside.

And I thought about my own body, and what I know about it, and how I'm learning to forgive it for failing me, and love it for carrying me, and be in amazement at how much it can actually do. I ran 5 miles yesterday - the last one for fun. For fun. My body has yet to give birth to a new life. But it is presently birthing itself, and it's amazing to watch.

And I thought about the Body of Christ that I am finding growing up around me. I don't have a church right now, but I am surrounded by the Church anyhow. My friends are incredible people, and each random one of them is absolutely beautiful.

The body is a holy thing. I need to remember that these days.

And, I'm just now coming to this. I think I've figured out a way to better explain why that song fell so flat for me. When God is searched for only in a certain set of experiences, and even when those experiences are so carefully constructed and perfectly presented, we certainly may find Him, but we only find a part of Him. How can we expect to find the fullness of the infinite in only one of the gifts He has sent? We can't. And we will be left unsatisfied, desperate. We are found, saved, redeemed, made whole, made joyful, made ourselves, made His when we seek and find Him in all the gifts He has sent. He is certainly in the the wistful beauty of a sunset and the power of a song. But He is also in the drops of sweat that roll down our back, evidence of the body that is breaking and being made new. He is in the friends with the wrong background and the wrong lifestyle choices. He is in our bodies, the Body of his Church, the body of gifts he sends, and (Christmas is coming!) His own Body. We are complex creatures and can no more survive on one kind of spiritual nourishment than we could survive on only apples, healthy and delicious and good as they are.

God is not so far away.

O world, as God has made it
All is beauty
And knowing this is love
And love is duty
What further may be sought for?
-Robert Browning

Friday, August 20, 2010

Living with the absolutely idiotic

Or rather, living in the absolutely idiotic. :)

Backing up a little bit... We're allowed to "try" this cycle. All that means is that we're allowed to do what we've already been doing all summer, which is absolutely nothing to prevent pregnancy. Really, we've not been holding our breath. We were instructed that for two cycles we were to be absolutely vigilant about preventing pregnancy. Abstinence at certain times, and protection at all other times. Friends, with our combined fertility, having sex at all is having sex with protection. If 33 months of concentrated effort has yielded us nothing, I'm pretty sure we're good. Haha.

But we're "eligible" for the next IUI now.

But anyhow, we're on cycle 3 since ye olde miscarriage, but because J might (read: he thinks he will, but his wifey is pretty certain it's not going to happen) take a group to Italy next May, and if it worked right away, I'd be due in May, we're waiting one more cycle.

This cycle, if last cycle is any indication, will end in approximately 3 weeks and a day or so.

I'm on CD 18 right now.

Enter the idiotic.

I do not want 41 day cycles and I am irritated at this body of mine.

That's all. :)