In sixth grade I was on the cross country team; I had a crush on both Jordan Buhler and Anders Wick. I couldn't decide, okay? I had a light pink backpack at that time, a knock off brand which was so uncool - it was no Jansport. After cross country practice one day, I walked home in the rain and my backpack was such poor quality that it became completely transparent and everything inside of it got wet. But it was okay, because Jordan walked me halfway home and that made me happy.
I would have continued running on the cross country team if I were allowed to do both cross country and volleyball. But because they were during the same season, the time of year when Back To School sales are strong and the leaves begin falling to the ground turning crunchy, I had to choose. I chose volleyball, year after year, because I knew I would at least run a little bit during volleyball warm ups; up and down the court. If it were an extremely athletic day, I could also run before or after volleyball practice.
After middle school ended I had to choose between track & field and softball. Again, I knew I would be running during softball; throwing a shot put and a softball was similar enough to me, so I decided to lean into the game with the balls not-so-soft and became the backup Varsity pitcher right away. Center field was my primary position, starting as a freshman. I ran when I was able, whether that was in the morning before school or work, greeting the morning sun, or in the evening beneath the shining stars. But most definitely, I did not run daily.
While Loren and I dated, we ran together and prayed aloud for life and people and things. We prayed for women who have chosen abortion, women who are in the thick of such a huge decision, for our little church community, for our future togetherness, our future babies. Two months into our marriage we and our married-friends drove down to San Fran to run the Womens Nike [Half] Marathon. The next year, Loren and I ran the Corvallis Half Marathon and the Mary's Peak 25k [which was actually 17 miles] Trail Run. A few months after that ridiculously painful and arduous run, we made the big adult decision that we wanted to do a marathon. My generous grandparents sponsored us to run the Portland Marathon 2015. [That's this year...in less than 3 months].
It's the pressing of my feet into tennis shoes, lacing them up tight like a bow on a birthday present, the stepping outside into the breeze so brisk, lungs filling up with fresh air, the moving of my body, pushing it to its limit and then some, the pounding of my feet as my heart follows suit, the clear air inviting a clear mind, an empty canvas, ready to be painted. It is as though my mind and my heart are released into reality, the reality of thanksgiving and freshness, with every step, one foot in front of the other.
Running reminds me that everything will be okay. Though my body aches and often my heart too, running allows my brain moments of rest without to do's; all I have to do is keep going. Just keep on keeping on.
My last two years of high school and freshman year of college were severely distressing; my family was facing infidelity, alcoholism, workaholism, complete destruction. Nothing new for anyone who lives in this broken world; but its pain-filled. Decisions I made during those years were not so beautiful, with my actions and my words and my intentions. I was confused, my heart chaotic, nothing made sense. But running beneath the stars late into the night, laying in the middle of the field across from the tennis courts, breathing in the crisp air burning my lungs as I cried out to Him..those nights kept me partially sane.
Running is a space for me and God and God and me and us together, chatting and existing.
Running puts me back on my swivel.
Though running has always been important to me, though it fills me up full and I have my greatest revelations and sometimes my most intimate and raw prayers, it also has always been secondary.
I could go months, nearly a year, in between runs and get up and go steady without walking for 7 to 8 miles with an 8:30 mm. Leisurely. No big deal. The half marathons were nearly easy for me; I barely needed to train. I peer into my near future with this marathon in the early stages of October and for the first time I am nervous for this race. This run. This challenge.
Running has never been so hard for me as it is now.
I've been attempting to train for this marathon and I feel blocked up, obstructed, arrested from my usual ability. My maximum milage as of recent has been 4 miles at a 9:45 mm. Sweating profusely, breathing with difficulty, my lungs burning from scar tissue, my body aching all over but especially in my back. When I finish, my muscles clam up tight, contracting and clenching together, letting me know they are done working, done stretching. They feel solid in my body, muscles of molasses.
My friend said she thinks I'm having a brain-block. That I kind of have things rattling around in there.
I cannot help but think of bible reading and praying and spending time soaking in His nearness. This lifestyle of walking with Him in the everydayness, is so important to me, so pressing and all that I want. But how it is so easy to place that second, if not last, on our priority list. Like I ditched cross country for volleyball, I often ditch reading my Bible for community life. I justify it with, well its basically the same because Jesus is all about community. Neither volleyball nor community are inherently bad or evil; they're both beautiful and good and lovely. But when I make the decision, because it is very much my decision and yours, to look away and walk away from the nook of prayer time with Him, my heart becomes starved. The Holy Spirit in me is parched, running ragged, losing its nourishment. The muscles of my core are weakened and malnourished, gasping and reaching for His presence and solitude, and I deny it.
It is easy to go an entire week without opening the pages and unfolding what He has for us, for me and for you; when we do finally return to that place, it feels awkward and weird, scary and vulnerable. Unsafe. Which is so much a lie. After weeks of soul-malnourishment, the returning run, the returning-meeting in solitude feels off and abnormal; it feels broken. But I am convinced that habit and ritual will turn this back into beauty, into a freedom place where my heart runs towards Him.
As of recent, I have been carving out an hour of moments with Him in the nook of our nursery, the corner near the window, on the rug that is so cushy and inviting and perfect for my knees and my tears. I do my best to ignore the lie that it is scary and too vulnerable, that I will hear nothing from His heart, and instead enter that place of silence and solitude and fullness and presence. The place of holiness because He is so there. Every morning, waiting for me. When I do not enter that place of presence, I feel Him beckoning, calling, sweetly saying, "But this time means something to me too, Dear. Not just you. I need this time, too." And so I lay down my to do's and my work and the nagging of my scull and I enter into His nearness.
Soon there will be a rocking chair in this corner, inviting me to rock and to lean into Him, to lay my heart on His chest as it rises and falls with the breathing of in and out. I hope to create a space of prayer here, in this nursery nook, building a habit into this room of prayer and grace and presence. A no-phone-zone. It's not some guilt-ridden thing that needs to be engulfed in condemnation, but rather a delightful, filling-up invitation.
A place to meet Him, daily.