Posts Tagged ‘pain’

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In just a couple weeks I will be running my sixth half-marathon, and it will be the fourth time that I do the Detroit International Half. For the past three years, race day has been unseasonably cold, with it actually snowing last year. Long before dawn, the excitement is palpable as 20,000 runners make our way through the dark to find our corral and correct pace group. There we wait for what seems like hours, jumping up and down to stay warm. We smile and chat, as the common bond is instant. The countdown on the loudspeaker begins and we hear the siren as the first group starts. Slowly, we inch our way closer, listening as every two minutes the next group starts. Soon we can see the start line and many snap a few last minute photos before tucking away their phones. By now, we are jogging. As we cross that mat, we click our watches and we’re officially off.

The first mile or two I try not to think about what I’m doing. I can’t believe the day has finally arrived. I focus on not starting too fast or too slow. I tell myself this is just a normal run. Deep breaths in and out. Months of training have brought me to this point. For the past 48 hours, I’ve been carb loading and drinking water by the gallon. I am as prepared as I can be.

By mile three, we are running across the Ambassador Bridge as the sun rises. It’s a gorgeous site and the excitement continues. I remind myself to look up and enjoy the scenery. People are jostling just to have a few steps of pavement in front of them without tripping over one another. I try not to get annoyed at a runner who is already walking. If they knew they couldn’t run, they should have started further back, I think. Maybe they had no idea, my nicer self decides to give them a break.

At the end of the bridge, it’s strange to run across the Canadian border where on any other day, you would be in your car and have to stop at the booth. The border patrol stand seriously looking at us to make sure they can see our bibs, otherwise we risk getting pulled out. Next to them, a local band and lots of friendly Canadians greet us with posters and cheers. Miles five through seven are smooth, fun and flat as we run next to the river on the Windsor side overlooking Detroit’s skyline.

Somewhere around mile seven, we enter the tunnel. It’s exactly what it sounds like. A tunnel, except this one is underwater. Two lanes normally full of bumper to bumper traffic. But for these few hours it’s body to body as the herd of runners all head the same direction. It’s also the only mile of the run that we have absolutely no spectators. Some runners shout and scream to hear their echo. Some stop for a quick photo at the midway point next to the two countries’ flags. It is a cool photo op, but the competitor in me won’t allow me to stop. The first time I ran through the tunnel, I was amazed at how long it was and kept wondering when it was going to end. There is a gradual incline near the end of the tunnel. At that point, my quads are burning and I dig in deep to push through because I know the biggest crowd is waiting just outside the tunnel.

Sure enough as we come out of the dark and even before our eyes are re-adjusted to daylight, we can hear people screaming and cheering. Both sides are full and I began to scan the crowd for one or two familiar faces. When I see them, I run close to the side to get a high five. The smile and wave from someone who knows my name gives me a little more wind in my sail.

About a half mile later, that’s when the real struggle begins. Around mile nine my mind starts playing head games, telling me things like…

  • Wow, you have a long ways to go.
  • You won’t be able to keep up this pace.
  • You are already behind last year, so just slow down.
  • No one else cares about your time.
  • Did I do enough squats, lunges, hills?
  • Why do you even care about your time?
  • Why are you doing this to yourself?
  • What’s that pain (leg, knee, hip, ankle)?
  • Most people never even do one of these races.

And on and on and on. So I talk back to myself…

  • You are MORE than half way done.
  • You can trust your training.
  • This is a new race with a new time.
  • You will be so mad at yourself if you slow down/give up.
  • God cares what you are doing and He knows the details.
  • You have breath and strength and ability.
  • That pain isn’t real.
  • Many people wish they could run.

Can you imagine the tape playing in my head over and over? Between the internal arguments, I pray and quote Scripture.

There is a hill somewhere between ten and eleven. It’s tough. That’s where I gave into the negative self-talk last year. I was nauseous and that gave me an excuse. I slowed way down and I as much as I hate to admit it, but I actually walked for like 30 seconds. Okay, maybe it was 60 seconds. Once I did that, I knew it was over.

Mile twelve is a great place for us half marathoners. It’s where the full marathoners keep going straight and we turn the corner and head for the finish line. It’s a great feeling to know you’re almost done. You forget the pain and pick up the pace. Every other time, I’ve been ecstatic when I finish. Last year I was already mad at myself.

It was the first year that my time didn’t improve. Later when I looked at my splits, I realized I hadn’t been doing as poorly as I thought. I had listened to the wrong voice in my head and I was my own worst enemy.

Five years ago, I had never run anything but a few family-fun 5k’s. I never envisioned myself as a serious runner. I remember how excited I was the first time I ran four miles without stopping. Now a four mile run is either a warm-up or a speed workout. Either way, it feels like an easy run day. Clearly, my perspective has changed. Training for a half marathon is work. Hard work. The only way that four miles got easier was by continually running.

Several times in the Bible, our lives on earth are compared to running a race. For me, the correlation is helpful. I understand that this life is not a sprint, but a marathon. I have to put the training in to reap the benefits. Spending time in His Word is paramount. Sharing my struggles honestly with godly friends is my lifeline. Regularly crying out to Jesus is the air I breathe.

Sometimes I feel like I can’t keep going. Like that hill on mile ten, I want to quit. But I need to play the tape of God’s truth to override the lies of my flesh. Letting go of my dreams and embracing God’s plan is still a work in progress. When I’m discouraged, I can choose where I let my thoughts rest. Do I focus on the pain and loss or do I remind myself of God’s goodness? When the daily loneliness threatens to devour me, do I give into self-pity or do I review how far I’ve come with God by my side?

My race is not over until God says it is. Someday I will cross earth’s finish line and when I do, I don’t want to have any regrets.

Hebrews 12: 1 & 2; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:7; Philippians 3:14

 

 

 

 

 

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Out-of-the-Pit2

As God has now allowed my life story to continue three and a half years longer than my husband’s, I marvel at His faithfulness to me. While I am certainly not living the life I could have imagined even 5 short years ago, I am convinced that I am exactly where God wants me. When I was cruising along with a healthy husband and living the busy life of a mom of two teenagers, I had some basic expectations of what the next stage would be like. As the kids approached college and many changes were right around the corner, I thought I’d be walking through the empty nest phase with my husband by my side. But I was wrong.

Since the diagnosis of ALS threw our lives into a tailspin, nothing has been the same. In fact, the only consistent thing has been the steady stream of changes. I guess we could all say that nothing ever stays the same. Each of us experiences different stages of life and we are usually at the beginning or end of some transition.

There are many contrasts to my former life and my current life. The more substantial two are that instead of working part-time at a nearby school, I now work a full-time corporate job in the city; and instead of living in a house with a husband and two children, I now live in a condo alone. Of course, those trickle down to a thousand other ways life has changed. My main roles used to be “wife” and “mom.” The former of which no longer exists and the latter requires minimal time; both kids basically grown, gone more than home.

It’s pretty drastic; death is like that. It interrupts everything. As does all suffering…It doesn’t have to be death. Most of us are thrown a curve ball at some point and the unexpected becomes the new norm. We need time to process that this shocking event has become a reality. When someone is sharing with me a burden and starts to say, “I know it’s not as bad as yours, but….,” I immediately stop them. It doesn’t have to be like mine to hurt. No need to compare. I haven’t walked in your shoes and you haven’t walked in mine, but we can still bear one another’s burdens. I consider it a privilege to share what God has taught me with another who is suffering. God’s word is completely transferrable to all our different struggles.

Living life alone was not what I ever expected. It’s certainly not what I wanted. It flies in the face of my personality. I’m a people person, a communicator that loved sharing life with my best friend and pouring into my children and ministry.

I loved my life.

Now I don’t.

That’s complete honesty. That doesn’t mean I’m unthankful; far from it, even in the littlest things, I see God’s goodness and overflow with gratefulness. It doesn’t mean I’m miserable; each day, I try to be positive and show God’s love to everyone I meet with a kind greeting and smile. It doesn’t mean I don’t have peace; on the contrary, I lay my head on my pillow each night completely at peace with God in my mind and spirit.

It just means I don’t love my life like I used to. It’s still hard and I’m still adjusting. Some days feel like drudgery, others are acutely painful. Some I manage just fine, while others I simply endure. Life is like that. I don’t think I’m that much different from anyone else.

I know I’m right where God wants me; and that makes it ok for me to not love my life now. Because if He’s ok with where I’m at, then I humbly accept it. “Better is one day in His courts than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10).

This season of life is part of God’s plan and His plan is good. He prepared me in advance for this time and He is preparing me now for the next stage, whatever it may be (Ephesians 2:10). Absolutely nothing is wasted in God’s economy. What a relief. There is always a purpose and a reason for our pain.

I don’t buy into “your best life now” philosophy; instead I choose to believe that my “momentary light affliction is producing for me an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinithians 4:17). God didn’t promise me a trouble free life here; In fact He said the opposite (John 16:33), but He has overcome the world and He has promised to never leave me (Hebrews 13:5).

And just soak in the promises of Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

I knew those promises before, but now I’ve truly lived them. Many hours on my face before God weeping buckets of tears, begging God to carry me and I can honestly say He has carried me. It’s only by His grace that I’ve made it this far.

Recently, as I was trying to encourage a close friend who was having her own struggles, I found myself telling her that as awful as this grief journey has been, I’ve asked the Lord to never let me forget how needy I am. I never want to lose the closeness that I’ve had with God during this time. Absolutely lost, desperate and broken. Completely at the end of myself, knowing I can’t survive without Him.

As painful as it has been, it has also been precious. I don’t yet have words to explain it. Maybe I never will. At rock bottom, Jesus Christ has met me, held me and carried me; and I won’t forget. Ever.

As a result, I have absolutely no doubts that God has my future figured out. He is with me in his journey. In fact, better than that, He planned it and it’s for His kingdom purposes, which I will not fully understand until I’m Heaven-side. Won’t it be so cool to be able to see all God was doing from beginning to end? Each of our own personal stories is just a tiny fragment of the whole. His purposes unfolded will blow us away. I can’t wait!

Whether I can ever say “I love my life” again is irrelevant. It’s not the goal. The goal is to continue to walk closely with my Lord and Savior, faithfully obeying and trusting. The struggles of our daily lives on planet earth bring to the surface the areas where we need to submit and where God wants to mature us; and all the while, the hands of a loving Father help us through the process.

A few months ago I was introduced to this song and I can’t get enough of it. Many mornings on my drive into Detroit, alone with Jesus, I have my praise and worship time. As I sing and pray this song, I force myself to keep one hand on the wheel when I want to raise them both heavenward and I fight back the tears so my mascara won’t run before my day has even begun. This has become my theme song and I encourage you to get alone with God and turn it up loud and listen….

There wasn’t a day that You weren’t by my side

There wasn’t a day that You let me fall…

In all of my life, Your love has been true,

With all of my life, I will worship You.

I will sing of all God’s done and I’ll remember how far He’s carried me

From beginning to the end, He is faithful until the end….

I will remember.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peace and Pain

Posted: November 26, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

Peace is an abstract feeling and hard to describe, but you dephilippians_4_7_by_kc_lynne-d517uhtfinitely know if you have it or not. If you Google the word peace, you find it defined as “freedom from disturbance” or the “cessation of war or violence.” Some of the synonyms are tranquility, calm and restfulness.

If you ask random people to define the same word, most would say that it’s when everything is going well and there are no current issues that are clouding their minds. The younger a person’s age, the more like they are to associate peace with things going their way. A more mature person understands that peace can be shattered at anytime; therefore, they take moments of peace as they come, often in the simple things of life.

It’s human nature to desire peace. Lack of peace is what drives many to participate in unhealthy behaviors. There are myriads of ways people attempt to drown out their lack of peace. Most spend their lives trying to fill the emptiness and escape the uncomfortable feeling inside. Others never slow down long enough to determine if they even know what true peace is.

My definition of peace had always been related to not worrying. No matter what was happening, if I didn’t have something hanging over my head on my to-do list or I didn’t have that pit in my stomach regarding something that was happening, I felt peace.

Sometimes lack of peace is related to something I can control because of a sin issue. Through my Christian growth, I’ve learned to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit pricking my conscience. I can’t stand that feeling of conviction, but have grown to be thankful for it. It’s God’s protection and I have discovered it’s best to repent and submit quickly. His way is always better for me anyway.

Even when it’s not sin related, we know what it’s like when we have something heavy on our minds. It can keep us up at night or cause us to be distracted all day long. I’ve never met a mom who doesn’t have the tendency to worry about her kids, starting with teething and diaper rash all the way to who they will marry and whether it’s the right person at the right time. My understanding is that the worries about kids don’t end even when they are married. In fact, I know my parents still worry about me.

Worry itself boils down to a lack of trust. Every relationship is only as strong as its trust factor. It is the desire to be my own god and control (or think I can control) my life’s circumstances. It takes my eyes off of the Creator. The only one who really is in control.

When I struggle with worry, I know how to apply God’s Word, control my thoughts and apply His promises. Early in my adult life, I did a comprehensive Bible study on the subject and pretty much considered myself an expert. I’ve taught dozens of girls through the years all the worry verses and how to put them into practice. It’s a spiritual muscle I’ve been developing for a long time.

Three years ago when I was kept awake at night trying to wrap my brain around the fact that Patrick had a terminal disease, deep in my heart I knew this would be the ultimate test. Could I really apply those principles? Would I?

While it has been the most difficult and darkest season of my life, my weak spiritual muscles have strengthened immensely. The things/issues that I would have been anxious about in the past seem minuscule now. I’m not fearful of the future nor the unknown. While I still care about my children, I completely trust they are in God’s hands. He will allow what He knows is best for their lives.

The principles I learned to put into practice with the smaller problems of life really did translate over to the dramatic life and death struggle that came my way. This has not been an easy process and God knows the ugliness of my heart. I still have a long way to go. In fact, I embrace that this is an area I can never get lazy in. Progressive sanctification is just that….progressive. Never stagnant.

This has been the fiercest battle of my life. I’ve wrestled with God. It hasn’t been pretty. I’ve sprawled prostrate before God begging Him to change His plan; I’ve curled in the fetal position on the floor of my closet sobbing that I can’t make it; I’ve crawled into the back of my van in an empty parking lot and screamed at God. I’ve wanted to give in and say it doesn’t work; It’s not worth it and I quit.

But His Word does work. Christ is worth it. And He won’t let me quit.

My new definition of peace entails more than just the absence of worry; Yes that’s still a vital part. My trust with my God has deepened to a whole new level. I can’t be simultaneously filled with anxious thoughts and have my focus on God. I continually make a choice on where to direct my thoughts.

But there is another part of the equation that is new and different for me. Before in my peace, I didn’t have any pain. I would associate pain with that bad feeling that you are not supposed to have. Surely peace also meant “no pain,” because in my experience, pain meant something was wrong. Just get to the root, fix the problem and the pain will subside.

I now know differently. Some pain can’t be fixed. Some pain will never go away. It’s not because of sin—it’s not lack of trust. It enters your life and changes you.

Twenty-three months post the death of my husband and the path of grief is still the one I’m traveling.

But I can honestly say I am at peace. In my innermost being, I am not consumed with fear or worry. My God is carrying me through this valley. He has never left me. He never will.

He’s the same God who guided Joseph, Esther, David, Ruth, Daniel and Paul, to name just a few of the real people we read about in the Bible. Each of them had circumstances that didn’t make sense. They had pain, sorrow and unfair treatment. Yet they cried out to God. They walked with Him, even when they didn’t understand. They didn’t know their future, but they trusted in their God who did.

Peace and pain can co-exist. One does not negate the other. Pain does not mean lack of trust. Peace is not just lack of pain. They are not mutually exclusive.

Jesus is the ultimate example. Even on the cross, in his deepest turmoil and incomprehensible suffering, He was at peace knowing He was obeying His father’s will. He was doing that for me and for you. By His stripes we are healed.

My memories over the next several weeks will be painful ones as I remember the weeks leading up to Patrick’s death. His life and death are constantly on my mind.

But even in my pain, I do have peace that surpasses all understanding. The peace that only comes from God.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7