Running

Sacred Spaces: A Very Revealing Guest Post

One of the cool things about blogging is connecting with other people who “speak your language.” For me these are often people from different parts of the world who I would never have known existed if it wasn’t for blogging. Some of the people I feel most connected to are people I’ve never met in person. But a few of my good blogging friends are actually people I knew in the past as acquaintances and only truly connected with them years later through writing.

Sometimes these relationships make me feel a sense of loss over the missed opportunity to spend time with that person when we were in the same place, but they also makes me thankful that it’s not too late to know them now.  Meredith is on of those people for me. Meredith and I went to Wheaton College together. We had a few classes together. We were even on the newspaper staff together for a while. But we never really got to know each other. Fast forward four years to Meredith starting her blog Very Revealing. As soon as I started reading her blog all I could think was, “Why were we not best friends in college? I adore her!”

Over the past year or so we’ve gotten to know one another better and have been able to encourage one another with our respective writing goals. Meredith wrote a great piece for my Sex and the Church series in the fall and today I have the great honor of sharing a guest post about unexpected sacred spaces over at her blog.

If you know me, it probably won’t surprise you to know that I wrote about the most sacred place I know of- Disneyworld. Here’s a little excerpt for you:

“I’m not a runner. Actually, I’m not anything even remotely athletic. In fact, I don’t think I’d done any exercise whatspever for about a year when my best friend (also not a runner) asked me if I wanted to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon with her. None of that stopped me from immediately saying yes.”

Read the rest of this post here and check out some of Meredith’s work while you are there! I promise you won’t be disappointed!

PS – I will be skipping my usual Friday Book Chat this week since this post falls on a Friday. But I will be back with a new book-related post next week!

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I Sing of Gratitude (Reprise)

In honor of both Thanksgiving and (I guess) Throw-back-Thursday, I re-visited a cute little something I wrote back when I was 23 and a baby and a newlywed. I’ve changed a lot from the person I was then, but I like being reminded of her from time to time. Bless her heart. (If you are not an American from the South, this is our way of saying, “What a darling little idiot,” in the sweetest voice imaginable).

In this case, I think cute little me actually made some good points. In my original post, I wrote about discovering that gratitude is  key in marriage. It’s been three years since I wrote that, but I still think it’s true and I am still glad that we are intentional about expressing gratitude every day, even for the routine things like making the bed, doing the dishes, and taking out the trash. More importantly though, in that post I shared a passage that is still one of the most moving things I have ever read about gratitude and I think it’s worth sharing again, today of all days.

In college I read an essay called “A Country Road Song” by Andre Dubus from his collection, Meditations from a Movable Chair. It is one of the most beautiful and moving pieces I’ve ever read. At the age of 49, Dubus suffered a devastating injury when he stopped on the side of the road to assist with a fatal accident. While pulling the survivor out of the way, he was hit by another car. He was injured so badly that he eventually lost one of his legs and was paralyzed in the other. Dubus wrote about the consequences of his accident in many of his essays, but this particular one is about his memories of running.  I cry every time I read it because it overwhelms me that a man could feel and express this kind of intense gratitude in the face of such incredible loss. If you have a chance, you should read the entire essay because it is so much better than just this small portion. But for now, read this and let it change your idea of gratitude the way it’s changed mine.

” When I ran, when I walked, there was no time: there was only my body, my breath, the trees and hills and sky…I always felt grateful, but I did not know it was gratitude and so I never thanked God. Eight years ago, on a starlight night in July, a car hit me…and in September a surgeon cut off my left leg… It is now time to sing of my gratitude: for legs and hills and trees and seasons…I mourn this, and I sing in gratitude for loving this, and in gratitude for all the roads I ran on and walked on, for the hills I climbed and descended, for trees and grass and sky, and for being spared losing running and walking sooner than I did: ten years sooner, or eight seasons, or three; or one day.”

“I sing of my gratitude…for being spared losing running and walking sooner than I did: ten years sooner, or eight seasons, or three; or one day.”

Awake My Soul or Why I Run

I am less than a month away from running my first (and likely only) full marathon. So much of my life this fall has revolved around my running schedule or trying to fix the injury du jour (so far, patellar displacement, tendonitis in my foot, pulled hamstring, shin splints, and most recently, my knee giving out entirely when I put my full weight on it.) At the beginning of November Christina and Jonathan and I all ran the City of Oaks Half Marathon here in Raleigh. For those of you who have never been here, Raleigh is fairly hilly. I mean, it isn’t like running up mountains, but this entire race was pretty consistently either going uphill or downhill. When I crossed the finish line my first thought was, “I am so glad I can quit running now” which was quickly followed by, “There is no way I am ever running twice that distance.”

In spite of all of the evidence to the contrary, I really don’t see myself as a serious runner.  For one thing, I’ve only been running these distances for a year and a half. For another, I never run faster than 10 minute miles, which is SLOOOOOW compared to even the slowest of competitive runners.

Friends and family members often ask me why I run. (In fact, after this most recent half marathon I texted my big brother to report my time and his response was, “What made you start running? That’s like the last thing you and I were built for.”)

It’s hard for me to explain why I do it. Especially since, based on all of the injuries I’ve already sustained, it’s clear that this is not something I will be able to keep up for any length of time without sacrificing my knees or feet or some other integral part of my anatomy.

I would love to say that it is sheer love of the sport. That running in and of itself brings me joy. But frankly, that isn’t true. There are days when the last thing I feel like doing is tying on those electric-blue custom-fitted horribly expensive shoes and running. In fact, there are days when I hate it so much I come up with award-worthy excuses for not doing it. There are days when I have to use a walking cast because I strained a tendon and days when climbing stairs or getting in and out of my car is pure torture. There are days I feel exhausted and days when I resent running because it takes up most of my Saturday. I’m not actually a masochist. I don’t just love to run.

I usually tell people that it’s the sense of accomplishment I feel from doing something I never thought I was capable of doing. Before I started training last fall, I had never run more than about 5 miles in my life. It is encouraging to see myself making progress – setting goals that seem impossible and then achieving them. This is partly true, but it is also partly a lie. Personal satisfaction isn’t a big enough motivator for me when compared with the pain and the work and the sacrifice of both time and energy involved in training. I don’t mean to lie, but I’ve never been able to fully articulate an explanation and I know I will only brush the surface when I try.

There is a moment (for me it usually comes anywhere between miles 10 and 15 depending on the day) when my body has started to hurt and I am tired and all I can think about is when I will be finished or at least when my next water break will be. I will think, “Just one more mile and then I will stop for water,” and I press on just a little further, pushing myself just a little past where I want to go and then suddenly, out of nowhere, I am floating. Call it a runner’s high if you want to, but for me it is so much more than that. It is a fleeting, jarring moment when everything is stripped away and I know I am in the presence of my Maker.

And I am the shepherds on that hillside near Bethlehem, in the company of angels, with the glory of the Lord shining round about me. And for just a few dazzling minutes every burning inhale is glory and every exhale is grace and my aching feet striking the trail again and again are a drum beating through my whole body and I am invincible. I think, in heaven I will run like this forever, never getting tired.

And I see myself, almost like I’m watching from outside my own body: My bright running clothes. My tight, salty skin. My phone, blaring Mumford and Sons through my ear buds until my whole head throbs with the sound. My arms pumping upwards and ending in hands balled into fists around imaginary drumsticks I am using to tap the rhythm out in the air in front of me. And, if I’m all alone, my mouth, using whatever breath is left in my lungs to sing out loud to the tops of the trees:

Awake my soul

Awake my soul

Awake my soul

For you were made to meet your Maker

You were made to meet your Maker

I run for those moments of rare and startling beauty. I run to awaken my soul. To feel fully alive.

How Disney Helped Me Quit My Job

Well, I did it. I quit my job. Last Thursday I marched into the Managing Director’s office, plunked down my letter of resignation and said, “I am done with this! I cannot work in this toxic environment anymore! I am too smart and I have too much self-respect to work for the idiots who work here and think they are the most important people in the world and act like big children and go out and party all the time even though they have families and little children. You don’t pay me enough to deal with this kind of crap. So I quit!”

Alright, that’s not exactly what happened. What actually happened was I timidly sent over my letter of resignation with a lot of “I’m really sorrys” and “I really appreciate all the opportunities you’ve given me here” and then I cowered before the other girls on marketing staff and my boss and stammered out all the reasons why this was just an opportunity I had to take, etc. etc. etc. Those of you who know me well know how much I hate confrontation and never want anyone to be mad at me, even if I don’t like them. So maybe it wasn’t the most triumphant resignation of all time, but still…I did it.

And do you know what got me through it? This song which was playing in my head the whole time:

We can analyze later why my brain subconsciously believes that “I’ll Make a Man out of You” equates to “You are a brave and capable woman,” but I think the obvious takeaway is that Disney has once again pulled through and helped me in a time of crisis.

I’ve never quit a real job before. Most of the other office-type jobs I’ve had in the past were paid internships or temporary assignments that had an established ending date. I’ve never had to tell people who weren’t expecting it at all that I was just quitting. To make matters worse, the same week that I resigned, three other people in our office resigned. (Which I think says something about this office environment.) But I ripped off that Band-Aid and now it’s done and I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted. I still have to finish out my two weeks, next Friday will be my last day. But having the end in sight makes me feel ready to handle anything they throw at me (or, you know, ignore it since there aren’t really consequences at this point.)

So…here’s what I’m doing instead. For the last month or so I’ve been talking to a family on and off who are looking for a new nanny. Their old nanny had been with them for 8 years, but is having a baby in August and will be staying home afterwards. (Methinks they must be a good family to work for, or the old nanny would not have stayed with them for 8 years.) The mom of the family approached me about this job and initially, I had no interest in going back to nannying. After all, we all know how crazy that made me last time. But, after several weeks of talking and praying and the family having a hard time finding the right person, I’ve ended up with what I think is a pretty sweet deal. I’ve got two kiddos, Porter (9) and Spencer (6) who will be in school during the day for the regular school year. I will work full-time for the rest of the summer and then, beginning the last week of August, will only work in the afternoons-early evenings. I will manage the kids’ schedules, get them from school, help them with homework, take them to their activities, and make sure they have everything they need for school and activities. During the school year I will only have to work about 28 hrs/week with paid holidays and 1 week of paid vacation. And (this is the clincher) they have agreed to pay me enough that we’ll still be able to cover all of our expenses, etc.

Since I will have all of my mornings free (during school) this will give me some extra time to work on my classes that I will hopefully start taking online through Fuller Theological Seminary in September. The program I’m trying to do is an MA in Intercultural Studies with an emphasis on Children at Risk. I think I could really be good at and love ministering to at-risk kids around the world. Additionally, I will have more time to work on the small baking business I’ve started out of my home and hopefully promote that further. (More on that once I get my website up and running.)

Initially, I wasn’t attracted to the idea of nannying again. I certainly got burnt out the last time and it’s also sort of a pride issue for me. Sometimes I feel embarrassed to tell people that I’m a nanny or I feel like I’m hurting myself in the long-run by not doing a “real” job.  But some wise friends (and also my husband) pointed out to me that when you compare working another year or two doing something I hate versus doing something I enjoy more, part-time with a lot more day-to-day flexibility, it’s kind of a no-brainer. Sometimes you just can’t plan for all contingencies, as much as I’d like to, so you have to accept that all you can do is walk the path that God sets before you today, and make the best decision you can for that day.

And I’ll admit it, I may have seen Brave pretty recently. (If you haven’t seen it you, you definitely should.) So when the offer was officially made there may have been this Scottish voice playing in my head asking me: “If ya had the chance to change yer fate, would ya?” And my unquenchable sense of adventure said YES! Challenge accepted!

In gratitude to Disney* for being a constant in these tumultuous times, I have (very) tentatively decided to shoot for running the Disneyworld Marathon in January. That’s right, folks, a full 26.2 miles (please do not comment, you super-fit people who have run like three marathons and only trained for like a month. This is legitimately the most epic undertaking of my life.) I did my first training run yesterday – and immediately regretted even waking up that morning. So, we’ll see how that goes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                               

*Don’t worry, guys. I know it wasn’t really Disney who provided this opportunity for me and gave me courage to quit and gave me peace when I felt anxious. That was Jesus and I am so thankful to Him. But I do think he maybe used the familiar comfort of Disney to help me just a little. Probably.

There and Back Again: The Story of Two Running Princesses

Get ready for a marathon blog. Both because it’s gonna feel really long and because part of it will actually be about running a marathon. Well, half marathon anyway. Ready….set…..go!

So after my eventful Valentine’s Day at work, I arrived home to find a vase full of roses, a big box of chocolates, and my husband cooking away in the kitchen. For those of you who know Jonathan, you know that he is not the kind of guy that enjoys cooking, so this was genuinely a really big sacrifice on his part. He told me to go relax until it was ready and when I came out again, he had the table all set beautifully with the candlesticks and everything. Yay husband!

Over President’ Day weekend we traveled up to Princeton, NJ to see Jonathan’s brother, Patrick, who is in his last semester of seminary there. It was the first time we had been to Princeton and not only did we have a great time hanging out with Patrick, but we also loved seeing the campus. Princeton is beautiful, lots of old gothic-looking stone buildings. It looks like it should be in England. The rest of New Jersey left a little to be desired, but Princeton itself is a gorgeous campus. While we were there we also took the train into NYC for a day and just walked around and hung out in the city. I met up with a friend of mine from high school who now lives and works in the city.

 

Grand Central Station

The following weekend was my half marathon in Disneyworld! I flew down to Orlando on Thursday night and Christina and I and her mom spent Friday at the Magic Kingdom and the running expo we had to go to to pick up our race packets. I LOVE the Magic Kingdom. When Jonathan and I first started dating I explained to him that I planned to live there someday and I hoped he’d be ok with that. It’s still my plan. On Friday night Christina surprised us with dinner at the restaurant in Cinderella’s castle! I’d never done that before! It was the coolest thing ever!

Do you see how excited it makes me?!!!

 

Peter Pan was there and he was teaching this kid all about how to climb on railings!

On Saturday we got up early and braved the crowds at Universal studios in order to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As if meeting princesses the day before wasn’t enough….I think I’ve changed my mind. I now want to live in Hogsmead. Or at Hogwart’s. We had butterbeer (which tastes like cream soda and butterscotch) and lunch at the Three Broomsticks and now I can die happy because I’ve been there. There are tons of other really cool things in that park, but we left pretty early because our feet were tired and we had to be at the marathon no later than 4AM the next morning. Yikes!

Hogwart's!!!!

Butterbeer. Yummy.

Inside The Three Broomsticks

So Saturday night we went to bed at 7:30 or so (no joke) so we could get up at 2:45 AM and have our coffee and breakfast and get our gear on and drive to the Epcot parking lot by four. Then we had to walk about a mile to where the starting line actually was and there they put us into corrals A-H. There were 19,000 runners decked out in tutus, tiaras, and full-out princess dresses. About 5% of the runners were men and they were also dressed up—most in tutus that matched their wives or whoever they were running with, but I also saw one man dressed as the boy scout from Up and another guy who was Lumiere (he was my favorite.) Please note our tutus. We made them ourselves!

Starting Line! They set off fireworks from the top for each corral as they started.

We were in corral F and we had to wait another hour or more before we started running, so by the time we began we were soooo excited to start! At every mile marker there  were characters there to greet us and if you wanted to stand in line you could stop to take a picture with them. We only took pictures with characters who didn’t have a line.

We ran through the castle! And then we stopped really quick for a picture. And then we ran some more. This was about 6 miles in.

Us and Mushu! This was towards the end

We kept thinking as we ran that eventually we would get to a point where we stopped passing people and were with people going our pace (there were a lot of people walking significant portions of it) but we never really did. The amount of people there kind of kept our pace slow which helped us be able to run the whole 13.1 miles with no walk breaks! We were proud of ourselves.

 The best part of the race was definitely running through the Magic Kingdom. The race started outside of Epcot and we ran a few miles down the road between Epcot and the Magic Kingdom, then into and through the Magic Kingdom, back down the road to Epcot, through Epcot, and out to the finish line. Even with the crowds, one bathroom break and a couple of stops for pictures, we finished in 2hrs and 37 minutes. We placed 6,450 and 6,451 out of 19,000. Not too shabby for our first endeavor. Unless you consider that the girl who won the race did it in 1 hr and 18 minutes. But that’s inhuman. Really. We were given beautiful medals for finishing. I have yet to decide where to display mine (when I’m not wearing it, of course.)

We did it!

It’s been hard to come home after all the excitement. It’s sort of a letdown to be done with this thing we’ve been training for for so long. It’s also a letdown to no longer be somewhere where people always address you as “Princess” or “My Lady.” People in the corporate world just don’t know how to treat a woman. We are pretty much addicted to races now. At least Disney races. I don’t think we’ll be able to stop. Team “Eat Our Fairy Dust” is out of control. Our ultimate goal (several years from now when we are experienced and also rich enough to pay for it)—to run the marathon that circles the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. Who’s with me?!!

Mount Kilimanjaro. For reals yo.