I started “running” again two weeks after Riley was born.
It was not pretty.
I ran a half marathon 16 weeks after he was born, the day after I turned 30.
It was not pretty.
Recovering physically from my pregnancies has been a longer, more challenging process than I expected. It has also been more rewarding. There is a rhythm to it that God has used to help me pray more, the kind of prayer where I talk and listen. There is a discipline involved that reminds me, everyday, of the many spiritual analogies we draw from physical training.
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:13
“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Heb 12:1
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Cor 9:24
And there is a tangible reward to this process that I honestly doubted would come. When you start so out of shape, so aware of what hurts and what your body cannot do, it is hard to envision the other side. But the process yielded its promised result, and it is so nice to feel physically strong again, to not hurt day to day, to be able to run, even to run fast again.
There are so many ways that I want God to move, to act, to speak in my life right now. And I know the right answers about these things–God has God’s own timing, God’s wisdom is greater than ours, God is powerful enough for any situation, God is good and can be trusted. But, like many things of faith, connecting what we know to how we live is a process that happens over time with reflection, prayer, and community.
That is what the Disciplines are for. They are the processes that create a path between our brains and our hearts, a path that becomes well worn and reliable, as we walk along it with God. Our thinking and our emotional responses take on the attributes of the Spirit. We do what Jesus would do were he in our shoes.
And in my case, those are running shoes.
October 13 was World Hospice Day, and in Long Beach a group of us ran in solidarity with the elite Kenyan runners who raced in Kenya, on a course that ended right by the Living Room’s Kimbilio Hospice.
In a lot of ways, I felt like this race was about other people’s stories.
Like Allison, who committed to running for Team Living Room, despite never running before. I was just her sidekick, her running coach to help her reach her goal. She was going to fulfill a vow to God.
Or Norma, who actually flew to Kenya, an ambassador. I was a donor, a writer of Facebook encouragements. She was going to run
with behind the Kenyans. (Even though she runs way faster than me!) And when a runner died during that race, she told his story and invited others to help provide for his children.
Or Jessi, who had this race on the calendar 3 weeks before running the New York Marathon for human trafficking with Team World Vision. Again, I gave, and I kept her company for part of her long runs on days she was in town from Arizona. But she is running 26.2 miles.
In the end, I ran alone, listening to music, listening to my feet pounding, listening to my breathing out and in, listening to God. It was not that different than the other half marathons I’ve done since I began running a decade ago. (Other than being my second best time at 1:51:30. I ran 8 minute miles the first half, 9′s on the second half. One of my goals is to run in under 1:45, all 8 minute miles, so I am going to keep trying for that.)
But a lot of ordinary things become significant without us really knowing it, like bread and wine. This was one of those runs.
I’ve mentioned before that I don’t ‘hear God’ in super clear, audible, tangible, know-it’s-God kind of ways. It takes a lot more time and guessing and wondering for me to get to a point where I think, Maybe that isn’t just my inner monologue. Maybe that thought matters more than others. Maybe that’s God.
As I ran, I had a sense, nothing more, nothing fancier, just a sense, that God was inviting me to close out a chapter. The sense has been creeping up on me for months, starting around June or so. But I think the chapter needed to end in October.
I found out I was pregnant with Kate and Lucy almost exactly two years earlier…October 16, 2011.
When they died, our friends at the Living Room planted two trees–bougainvillea–in their honor. They told me they’d grow up over a trellis to provide shade in the garden where guests would sit.
Last week, I receive these photos.
My girls’ trees.
It’s not that I don’t remember them or feel sad about them or experience their loss anymore. Grief goes on, and I have no desire to micromanage or shut out its natural process. It’s just that these two years have been a bit intense when it comes to loss of various forms, including Kate and Lucy. There have been several hurts I’ve held onto more tightly than I needed to.
I remember the first day that I made it through without really thinking about my daughters all the time. When I ‘remembered’ again in the evening, I cried. What happens if their memory is no longer front and center? Eventually I wore jewelry with their initials, a way to carry their memory with me and unburden my mind from consciously thinking about them every waking minute.
I do that with other hurts, carry them close, put them in the forefront of my mind, hold them tight. I don’t want to forget they happened or ignore their impact on me. But I have given them too much space in my mind and heart.
On a training run a few weeks before the race, I sensed God say, You really can let it go, you know.
So I inhaled deeply, exhaled and relaxed my shoulders, shook out my hands, and ran. Fast.