Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Heart of a Runner

I am a runner. I never imagined that I'd ever really say that. But, here I am: a runner.

Early on Saturday morning I was out at about 6:30 running. It was the first really chilly day of running this season. I had prepared well. I had on a hat and running gloves. I wore my long-sleeved plumb colored compression running shirt. I was warm and on my way to a great seven-mile run. A mile or so into the run, I passed a runner going other direction. It was a relatively young guy wearing ALL the wrong things for cold weather running if you are a "real" runner. He was wearing a heavy hooded sweatshirt and warm up pants, no gloves and a baseball cap. He yelled hello from across the street and I smiled and called back. Runners are generally very cordial and always nod or smile, at the very least, to other runners (at least in my experience).

In that moment I had the great thought that ANYONE, {anyone} can be a runner. It's about having the heart of a runner. You don't have to have anything fancy or neat to just lace up and go. You dont' have to run fast or run far for it to have meaning. You can be any age, any skill level, any person at all.

So, what is the heart of runner? It means doing something because it makes you stronger. It pushes you to be a little better. It means that you do it because it makes you feel good inside and out. It means that you dig out that last stretch even when it doesn't feel like there is anything left to give. It means that you know that running gives you a place where you can calm your mind and put back into perspective those things that have gone askew. It is a place of sanity when so much around you feels a little insane and outside of your control. For me the heart of a runner is not necessarily about the constant push to be faster or find that competitive edge.

If anything, it might just be the opposite. I have a friend who picked up distance running about the same time I did. She's ultra fit and I love to talk runner with her. But running has become so important to her that it is starting to become more important than other important things and I've gradually started to see her make surprising life compromises. She's always looking for a race to run or a time to beat. Don't get me wrong. I would LOVE to be faster. And I love running races. But sometimes I feel a little like the guy wearing the over-sized grey hoodie. It's not about the time or the race. It's about balancing life with what you love and learning how to put first things first. That is the heart of a runner. Balance. We run to find balance and to make everything make sense and to be reminded that we can and are worth the effort.

I wasn't born with the heart of a runner. It's something that I've learned and developed. It's unlikely that I'll ever run fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon. In fact it is unlikely that I'll ever run a marathon. I'm a half marathon runner at my best. And I'm unlikely to run more than a couple of races a year. But I love running. Even on the days I don't feel like running and think I might hate running, I still love running.

So I guess maybe that is what gives me the heart of a runner. Instead of wearing my heart on my sleeve, I wear my heart in my shoes.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Christmas Came Early to This Frazzled Mom

I got an unexpected early Christmas present on Thursday. After an incredibly long week of being stressed out, overwhelmed and on the verge of nervous break downs multiple times each day, the surprise came as such a welcome relief. Let me explain WHY my life has taken such a dramatic turn over the last few weeks.

A lot of things are changing rapidly in our family right now. My husband has a new, further away job that is wonderful, but causing me a little stress in anticipation of the longer hours and school work (this new job also comes with a chance to earn a master's degree paid for by his company). Our oldest is starting kindergarten after we pulled him out after just three weeks last year to give him a little more time to mature. I am trying to manage my new seminary calling, being a primary teacher, serving as ward organist, and keep up on a visiting teaching route that some times can be time consuming. Change is wonderful. These are all good, exciting changes. But even good change, happy change can cause negative stress.

Now that you know why I'm a little fragile right now, are you just dying to know what my Christmas present was?

I got home late from teaching a Thursday night class and the second I walked in the the door my kids yelled that I had a Christmas present waiting. And sure enough, there was a square box all wrapped in metallic green, red, white and silver polka dot Christmas paper with a big tacky gold stick-on bow on top. I could not possibly imagine what my husband had in that box. When he took this new job, he also took a pay cut( short term loss=long term gain--it was such a good opportunity for career growth that we were willing to take the cut for the time being). So budgeting has been on the TOP of my mind a lot lately. I am keenly aware of all the pennies being spent and I was pretty sure there weren't any extra pennies left over for an unexpected present. I suddenly remembered having had a conversation weeks ago where I mentioned that with my new seminary responsibilities maybe this would be a good time to replace my old, large print, hand-me-down scriptures that have started falling apart. But as the weeks wore on towards the end of the summer, I'd put the thought out of my mind as other expenses were mounting.

So to my utter amazement, I opened that box to find a beautiful black leather bound, gilt-edged large print set of scriptures. There they were! I was speechless. J had cashed in a bunch of cash back bonus bucks from our credit card early so I could start the new year as a seminary teacher with that new set of scriptures. So sneaky. He had even ordered them using his personal email account so I wouldn't get any order confirmation emails.

I can't even begin to express how special this gift is to me. I love the scriptures. I love how I feel when I read them. I love how boldly, but lovingly the Lord through his prophets speaks. I love that the scriptures have real answers to real problems in real life. Some years ago I heard an excellent talk by a prominent woman in our church named Cheri Dew, where she spoke about learning how to figure out how God speaks to you personally. It is different for everyone. I learned a long time ago that if I want to hear what God has to say to me, I have to open my scriptures. Those are the moments when he speaks. Those two books represent so much potential for me and my personal growth. My heart just yearns to have all that goodness fill my weary soul.

So merry Christmas to me. Oh, and by the way, new scriptures smell a-mazing. You can't help but want to open them and just see what is inside!