Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Advent “Study” week 2

part 2 in a series of Advent "studies" that are less about study and more about slowing down to listen for God in the midst of the holy-days.

Part of readying ourselves is allowing God to work in our lives. Many of us need healing in our relationships, in our bodies, and in our spirit. 
The focus of today’s time together is to slow down, listen, and ask God for healing in our lives. 
Let us start with prayer. Gracious Lord, we thank you for this time that we have set apart.  We ask that you would meet us here.  Give us guidance. Lead us and touch us in all the ways we need.  Send your spirit to move in us, through us, amongst us, and between us. In your precious and mighty name, we pray, amen

Meditation: During Advent and Christmas, we celebrate all that Christ brings to and offers the world.  We sing about peace and joy and hope and loife. And yet, often, the holidays bring stress and grief and tension and family feuds.  Facing the holidays without loved ones, end of the year bills, schedule conflicts, illness, fatigue, and family drama can suck the cheer right out of the holidays.  And so we come back to this place to center our hearts on Christ and seek renewal and wholeness. 
The story of Emmanuel shouts, “God with us!” reminding us that we are not alone in our struggles and that God does seek to offer us blessings and goodness.  God wants us to be whole. God wants us to have peace.  God wants our relationships to be life-giving.  God wants us to be healthy. 

In our time of quiet, let us ask God, which parts of my life do you want to heal and restore this Christmas? 

Quiet (2-3 minutes)
Time of sharing
Prayer time (music in the background)
Closing prayer

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Power of Good Coach

Today's run hit the double digits. Today was the first time we did 10 miles as a team. 

I was not ready to run.  I did not want to get out of bed. I did not want to run in the rain. I did not have any kind of desire to get on the course. But I knew I needed to and doubted whether or not I would be able to make next week's training, so I pushed to get out of bed. 

I arrived late and then I started out behind and figured that was fine. I took my time and started by walking and then doing some extra stretches.  Even the basics of the run started with a few SNAFUs.  When I took off my camel pack to stretch I saw that my water pouch was leaking. It was wet through the bottom of the pack and was soaking my shirt, sweatshirt, and pants.  And when I started my ipod, I found the battery was dead even though it was left charging all night.  It was not a good start.  But I knew those things were minor and just kept going.  My pace was slow but steady and I had to keep plugging along.  By 3 miles I was stretched out, feeling loose and pretty proud that 3 miles feels simple and easy on any given day.  I had to make a pit stop and then got back on track, only there was no chalking to indicate the way and no teammates in sight. I had no idea if I was going the right way or not. I had not taken an instruction sheet and I had not heard the general course overview.  Despite all that. I kept going figuring at least I'd get the run done, even if I was on the wrong course. 

At 4 miles, I saw some teammates in the walking group and then started seeing others on their way back.  At 4.5 there was a water stop and Coach Mel was there.  She joined me to go up the hill (the last bit before the turn around) and then stayed with me all the way back. She let me set the pace and we talked the whole way back.  I'm much slower than she is, but her presence made me want to push harder, run longer and more often. And talking made the time go quickly.  Not only were miles 5-10 bearable, they were easy, they were fun even. 

Mel has kept me company on more than one occasion and has never fussed about my pace. She gives me tips on form and answers questions and keeps conversation going.  And her energy, enthusiasm, and skill inspire me to keep trying and working on being better.  And every time I am grateful for her presence as a coach.  She has been a leader, an encourager, and a guide. I am blessed by her with my training and inspired to look at my own "coaching" as a pastor in light of her example. 

If you would like to donate to fight blood cancer, click here.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

On loss and faith

Just about a month ago, Rick and I learned that we had miscarried.  I was nearly 11 weeks along and after some warning signs, I saw the doctor and learned there was no heartbeat and the baby hadn't grown in nearly 2 weeks.  It was what they call a "missed miscarriage" meaning my body didn't recognize it right away. My body was carrying along as if everything in the pregnancy was normal.  Only it wasn't.  We were scheduled to leave to Mexico a week after we learned we had miscarried and so we decided to have a D&C to simplify the process and not cause medical problems, or even an emergency, when we were so far from home. 

      As we have grieved, I have been especially grateful for my time as a chaplain at Northside Hospital in Atlanta.  Northside has more births (over 18000) per year than any other hospital in the US.  As part of that, there are also a number of women who experience miscarriage and stillbirth losses.  I was honored to walk with them in their grief as they experienced their own losses.  As a chaplaincy resident, I had to work through my own theology of life and death and pregnancy loss.  Time and time again I heard family members say, “It was God’s will.” And yet I could never reconcile God “taking” a child from loving and caring parents.  As I worked out my own beliefs, I finally came to believe that miscarriages and still births are not in God’s will.  I don’t think God wants the death of any child.  I think biology happens (statistically speaking, 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage in the first trimester) and things happen that are part of the brokenness of our world that don’t fall in line with God’s love or God’s grace. 
And yet, even when tragic and heartbreaking things happen, God is there to hold us and love us and comfort us.  Even when the world seems against us or our bodies have failed us or our hearts are broken yet again, God remains constant and eternally invested in us and our well-being.  I’m grateful I worked those things out in my mind years ago, because when we had to walk a similar path this last month, I didn’t have to fight to find God.  God was right there with me as I sat in the hospital room and underwent tests and saw the ultrasound where there was no more heartbeat. God was there when I shared the news with Rick and with family and friends and with each of you.  God was there when Ruthie hugged me and asked about the baby in my belly and prayed repeating after me for Jesus to hold that precious baby.  God was there during surgery and in the recovery and God has been there the whole time following.  Of that I am sure, and for that I give thanks.  

This year I have been terribly anxious for Christmas to arrive.  I was ready to decorate as soon as I heard the news, not physically, but emotionally, I wanted the peace and the hope and the light to break through the sadness.  And Christmas decorations, and the lights and the songs, and the smells all remind me of that hope of Christ. For me, that’s the heart of the Christmas message, that God’s love breaks through our deepest woes and darkest nights and instead offers hope and light and life.
It’s God’s promise of a future of abundance and peace and restoration and wholeness that allow us to walk freely into the future.  They allow us to heal from our heartbreaks and embrace something new, even if that something isn’t at all what we expected. 
  I pray that you find Christ this Advent and Christmas. I pray that God’s light breaks through the darkness in your own life. I pray that hope and joy fill your heart and that  the beautiful message of the incarnation flows from your lips so that others might know the love of God through Christ Jesus

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Not a Loner Afterall

I've found that I run at a different pace than most of the group. I don't walk the whole time, but I'm not strong/fast enough to keep a 4:1 (4 minutes running, 1 minute walking) pace either, and there's no way I could do the 5:1 pace more than once or twice. So I go at my own rate. I've had to work on not beating myself up for that. I'm out there running/walking and doing that alone (especially for 9 miles!) is a big deal. Who cares if I'm slower than most? So, I've just gone at my own pace. I bring my ipod along and just go and do what works for my body. I do what doesn't stress my asthma but keeps me pushing for more.

Last Saturday at our run, I was sort of beating myself up over it again. I was blaming myself for being too introverted or too much of a loner and thinking it was a social issue and not a running issue. Mid-self-reprimand, I stopped to stretch (I was less than a mile into the run) and a new woman, an alum who was training with us for the day, stopped to check on me and make sure I was ok. I said I was just tight and needed to stretch out more. She stayed with me and we got acquainted as we got back on the track.

In training, as you go, it's valuable to know what pace someone runs/walks (mostly so you know whether or not you'll be keeping pace with each other or if you'll be parting ways soon). We found out we were keeping a pace closer than not and we agreed to do a 2:1 pace together. Her timer was set and kept us going along at a consistent pace. We talked and got to know one another and had a lovely run together. It was nice to finally have someone at my pace and that I was comfortable chatting with along the way. After our turn around, I needed to stop at a rest stop and told her I could catch up, and yet she decided to stay with me and we would journey along together.

I can't tell you how appreciative I was to have a running mate where I didn't feel defeated for not being able to keep up or frustrated for not doing more running. And to top it all off, I finished the NINE MILES on my feet and feeling well!

Thank you D for a great run!

If you'd like to donate to fight blood cancer, click here.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Little Closer to the Goal

Today I finished 6.2 miles. That's a 10k. It may sound a little vain, but I was super proud of myself. That was a huge deal to me and 6 miles had seemed pretty overwhelming. I walked a lot today, which was in part to hang with the folks I was with and in part to follow Dr's orders for my pregnancy. But walking or running, first or last, it didn't matter. I finished. I did a 10K today! That has had me on Cloud 9 for most of the day.

All along in this training process, I've been a bit hard on myself and easily discouraged thinking "I've never done 5 miles" "There's no way I could do 8 miles" "13 miles might as well be 1000." And then on my way home, I realized something. I realized that though I haven't run those miles before, I've hiked. We have done a good bit of hiking in my family and a couple of years ago I was doing a bootcamp training and felt invincible and decided to try and do Mt. Whitney. My dad signed on and we trained together and we hiked various mountains and logged a good number of miles. Our longest pre-Whitney, was 9 miles round trip. On the day of Whitney, we didn't summit, we hadn't trained enough for the 22 mile round trip. BUT, we did make it just over 11 miles round trip. Only half, yes, but nearly a full half marathon of distance!

Today, that made me pretty excited. All of the sudden, training for the Tinkerbell race didn't seem so crazy. I've done longer hikes. And I did 11 miles at pretty high elevation and crazy steep trails. So the streets of Anaheim and Disneyland won't be quite so daunting.

It was nice to realize fully, not only can I do this, but in many ways I have done this distance before, and I didn't train nearly as well as I am this time around!

If you'd like to donate to fight cancer, click here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It's Bigger in My Head

This week has been less than ideal for training. It's been busy. I've been tired. I planned to go today and then got held up at work. Tomorrow is the plan. Apparently we are ditching trick or treaters! But hopefully I'll run. Otherwise the 5 miles on Saturday might do me in. We are a good ways in to training at this point and things are getting serious. Weekly runs (like the non-big ones) are up to 4 miles. (as someone who wouldn't have run a mile 3 months ago, 4 just for the heck of it mid-week still seems nuts). This week is 5 miles, next Saturday 6, then 7, then 8, then a week of reprieve at just 5. HA!

When I start to think about 6 or 7 or 8 miles (let alone 13) I get super discouraged. I think there is NO WAY I can do that much. And yet, the thing I've been learning (apparently it's slow to really sink in) is that I can't focus that far out. I only have to focus on today. If I can do 4 miles one week (which I did a couple weeks ago without much trouble at all) then certainly I can do 5 this week. And then I can worry about 6 next week. But for this week all I need to do is focus on the 5. Which really, means focusing on each interval, one at time, and not even thinking about the 5 until you are finally done with it.

I think that's true for a lot of life. It's definitely true for spiritual practices. We hear about the person who meditates for an hour only to find ourselves restless after 2 minutes and think "I can never do that." But we don't start with an hour. We start with 2 minutes, and then go to 3, and then 4, and then 5, so the increase doesn't seem quite so impossible, and in fact, it becomes downright do-able. Then before you know it, you can meditate for 15 minutes without thinking twice about it.

I also imagine (as I've never had to face the reality myself) that managing and facing chemo happens in much the same way. Six weeks of chemo may seem impossible and ugly enough to not even want to bother, but if you can just get through one treatment and then the next and then the next, it never has to be all at once. It's only one manageble thing at a time.

So, for today, well rather tomorrow, it will be my 3 miles of mid-week. And then I'll wait for Saturday to work on those full 5 miles.

Here's to one step at a time.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Call to Worship, Exodus 20

Leader: The Lord our God seeks to free us from bondage.
People: We praise you and thank you for the mighty things you have done on our behalf.
Leader: God gives us life by giving us rules to live by.
People: Help us to accept your instruction O God, so that we might have life and have it abundantly.
Leader: God calls us to right living so that we might have healthy and whole relationships with God and others.
People: Help us O Lord, to live by your rules without resentment or hesitation. 
Leader: God’s ultimate God for us is wholeness and fulfillment.
People: Help us receive the gifts you seek to offer.  By the power of your name, Amen.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Others bring you up

In a selfish, self involved, individualistic culture, it's easy to get sucked into the "I can do it on my own" mentality.  Working in the church often spares me from too much isolation, but culture continues to push in the opposite direction. 

Participating in TNT is another counter cultural voice in my life.  Often, when things aren't the way we want them to be in our lives, we hull up.  We self-isolate. And we refuse to share the full truth of our reality. That happens spiritually (we don't want to admit to addiction or sinfulness or back sliding, or a lack of spiritual disciplines) and it happens physically (we don't want to admit bad eating habits, or lack of exercise, or laziness when it comes to our health).  So it's easier to go at it alone, otherwise someone might find us out. 

During the week, I have been training on my own. Not to self-isolate, just because there aren't a lot of team mates in my area and Saturdays are our together day.  And sometimes, on Saturday I'm pushed to run faster or longer than I would on my own.  My team stretches me to be better.  This week, I ran with a teammate who trains nearby and she claimed that she's "slow", well, we weren't running 30 seconds before I knew her pace was a lot faster than mine. She claimed to be a jogger, but she most assuredly was running.  (Where the actual shift from jog to run actually happens, I don't really know).  But she was running.  And I ran with her.  I hadn't stretched properly or done anything the day before and so my calves burned almost instantly and they kept burning.  After one mile I asked to stop and stretch and then we walked mile 2 and then did a mix of running and walking mile 3.  She pushed me to be better.  It wasn't intentional on her part, she didn't set out thinking "I've got to make her a better runner" but her example (and her pace) drove me to up the anty on my own running. 

And that's what community does.  Community that's focused on the same goal anyway.  Community that shares the same values and practices the same disciplines draws us into being better, and that's the way it should be.

Thank you teammates.  Go Team!

If you would like to donate to the cause, click here.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Overcoming obstacles.

I have said it before and I will say it again, I am not a runner.  Running has never been something I have enjoyed or really wanted to do.  And so when I stop to think about what I've embarked on here, it can seem a little crazy.  The two-three miles I do a couple of times a week is not that bad, but 13 miles, that seems totally unrealistic.  Quite frankly it seems darn near impossible!  I try not to focus on the implausible nature of ME running THIRTEEN miles and try to trust that LLS knows what it is doing and will take me there one step/week at a time. 

Nevertheless, sometimes I still get down on all of it.  I come to the end of a walking interval and hear the voice on the computer app tell me, "Start running" and I think "oh shut up, I don't want to run." And then I remind myself, "I do want to fight cancer. I do want to see a cure. I do want people to stop suffering. I do want there to be tangible hope." And so I start picking my feet up a little faster and get back to running. 

This is a challenge.  If I were doing it for myself, I think I might have thrown in the towel a few weeks ago. But this isn't about me. It's bigger than me. And that helps me get over myself and keep at it. 

If you want to help fight cancer, click here to donate.

Monday, October 7, 2013

And then it gets harder

Last Saturday I was able to get out to run/train with the team. It was my first time to meet with the larger group and I only knew one person there. (I was SO grateful I had gone to the street fair a month ago!) It was interesting to be there as an observer, seeing what was happening and how people interacted and what the general dynamics of the group were. As a sociologist, ok, as a sociology major, it was fascinating. We did some warm ups, gave props to the person who has fundraised the most, and heard the inspiring testimony/mission moment from Eddie, who is a cancer survivor. Then we got running. I normally run a 3/1 split (3 minutes running and 1 minute walking) and one of the groups was doing 4/1, so the mentor who was running with me encouraged me to run with them and keep up. I did alright for a good while and had a good time getting to know Eddie along the way. On the way back my muscles started to burn and it was getting harder and harder. I probably could have pushed it, but I've tried not to have a flare up with my asthma as I train. The running didn't feel bad and another mentor stayed back with me to talk about fundraising. Afterward we did stretching and core training and all of it felt good. We ate some snacks, chatted, and got on our way. By 10:00am I was full of energy and feeling great. By afternoon I had a headache and was sore. By evening I was tight and sore and went to bed early. Sunday wasn't much better but I started the day with some stretching and that seemed to help a good bit.

It definitely showed me that I need to step up my game to keep up and that that's a crucial part of getting stronger and better in order to do the race. I'm grateful for a longer term goal that I can focus on so I don't become too comfortable just doing what works and not pushing myself to do more.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Why I Am Running

A few months ago, I was talking with Kathleen S, a childhood friend. She was sharing that she has Leukemia and that she takes chemo pills daily and will likely have to for the rest of her life. She was sharing some of the challenges of her illness. She was also sharing some of the blessings of the research and medical advancements. She said that right before she was diagnosed, the statistic for those diagnosed with Leukemia was that within 5 years of diagnosis 80% of patients would be dead. BUT because of the research and advancements that statistic has changed. It has been turned on its head. NOW, the statistic is that within 5 years of diagnosis 80% of patients will LIVE. That's huge. And that is worth fighting for. The way I know how to fight is to run and raise money for a cure. Not just better statistics, but a cure. So I am running, for Kathleen, and the others like her, who have life despite their illness and hopefully will one day simply have life and no trace of illness. Please join me in fighting for a cure!