death of dog · grace · Running · Uncategorized

Grace shows up: a drama

Grace shows up: a drama

Cast of characters:

Me, enjoying a midweek run on a sunny evening

Ashley,  a senior in high school, on her way to youth group at her church

Junior, a white terrier dog, sitting on his front porch, watching for anyone passing his house

Act I

The three of us converge in front of Junior’s house at the exact same time. 

Me, slowly jogging, thinking about my tired legs 

Ashley, driving to church, thinking about – ? – her boyfriend, her math class, what to wear to school tomorrow?

Junior, sprinting toward the road,  thinking only about getting that person running in front of his house

In a flash – white car, white dog, a thud, a yelp, Junior in a heap by the side of the road

 

Why wasn’t I looking, why didn’t I stop him, what to do, what to do??

Me, banging on the door of the house, “Your dog has been hit!” no one home

Ashley, on the grass next to Junior, in tears

Junior, head at a strange angle, eyes glazed, breath barely

Me, running home for my car

Ashley crying, calling her mom

Junior, not moving

Act II

A new character, Anthony, Junior’s owner, found at his parents’ house

Anthony is in a wheelchair

Me, “I’m so sorry, but there has been an accident with your dog.”

Anthony, body slumping in chair, “Ever since he took up with that girl dog, seems like it gets on his nerves for anyone to go by the house.”


Act III

Another character, God’s Grace, enters

Back at Anthony’s house

Me, feeling guilty, especially because Anthony is in a wheelchair

Ashley, apologizing with tears

Junior, chasing runners in heaven

Anthony, standing up to hug Mary, offering to pay to have her bumper fixed, saying accidents happen, dignified and resigned

Grace, quietly filling the yard in the sadness


 

Alcoholics Anonymous · Peachtree Road Race · Running

A birthday celebration

My friends and I were in the heart of Atlanta yesterday, crawling along in traffic by Centennial Park. We had made the drive to go to the Peachtree Roadrace Expo, where we would get our race numbers for the world’s largest 10K on Saturday, buy new running gear  and take advantage of the free samples. Going to the expo always gets us pumped for the race. 


As we inched along, we started to notice that the sidewalks were full of people wearing lanyards with white cards around their necks. They were nicely dressed in bright colors, kind of like a cruise crowd, and were coming  out of shops and restaurants and hotels. Must be some sort of tourist group we decided. As we parked and made our way to the World Congress Center for the expo, we saw more and more of them. Usually the streets are full of folks in shorts and t-shirts excited about the 4th of July race, but we saw few runner types. 

Coming into the building, I saw a sign saying “Happy, Joyous, Free” surrounding “Atlanta 2015”. A new Atlanta marketing pitch, I thought. Friendly volunteers in bright green shirts bearing the logo were all around, guiding the lanyard people to where they needed to go, and pointing the rest of us toward the expo. Being the inquisitive person I am, I asked one of the volunteers what was going on. She looked at me as if to say, “What rock did you just climb out from under?” and replied, “This is the 80th birthday celebration of Alcoholics Anonymous. ” 


I am revealing my prejudices to say that I was shocked. If you had told me to imagine a huge group of recovering alcoholics in downtown Atlanta, I would have pictured sad looking shriveled up souls, huddled together in doorways, chain smoking and drinking coffee out of styrofoam cups. These folks looked – well, so normal! They looked like any other group in town for a fun week-end.


When we emerged several hours later from the expo, the crowd was even larger – I read that they were expecting 55,000 from all over the world – and there was lots of hugging and back slapping and folks calling out to old friends. One guy had a Canadian flag on his hat, and people were finding others from their part of the country. They were all ages, from 20-somethings with tattoos to elderly men and women in scooter chairs that threatened to run us over. Their theme – happy, joyous, free – seemed to throb through the gathering like an electric current. 


I couldn’t help thinking how each person there had a story, probably one of heartache and loss, of reaching the bottom and pulling themselves back up. Even just walking through the crowd, I could feel the emotion, and the sense of acceptance and understanding that they shared as they greeted each other. Heck, I wanted to grab a lanyard and join in with them!


I would love to know how many of the AA members will be running the Peachtree on Saturday morning. I imagine a bunch. After all, the participants in both share a desire to live the best life that they can and have worked to be there. But my respect and admiration goes out to the brave people proudly wearing their lanyards and celebrating their freedom from addiction with others who have been down their same path. 


So happy 80th birthday Alcoholics Anonymous!  And thanks for all you have done to help the millions of normal people who suffer from this disease. 

engagements · health · Running · Spirituality · Uncategorized

A Happy Day

A Happy Day

Sometimes I get bogged down with life – going to work and making dinner and paying bills and cleaning house – so I was happy to have a rejoicing day last Saturday and be reminded that God does answer prayers. 

I ran a 10K at the Run at the Mill, sponsored by Run for God, and I could go on and on about the beautiful day and the good run I had, but three praises in particular stand out.

Praise #1 – I went to the race with two of my favorite people, Doug and Virginia Todd. They are the most loving, outgoing people you will ever meet. Several years ago they joined the  Run for God 5K program at our church and loved it. Virginia had to have her gall bladder out, so she was not able to do as much as she would have liked, but Doug became the program’s best cheerleader. Doug is someone who is very enthusiatic about everything and became the heart of our group. He kept running and Virginia joined in, and they did several more 5K’s and Doug joined his son-in-law to run the Peachtree. He had a blast.

Last January we did the Run for God 10K and half marathon class at 1st Methodist. Doug was excited about training for the 10K, but started feeling lethargic. He just didn’t have his usual pep, so he finally went to the doctor and found out that he had some serious blockages and needed heart valve replacement – his workouts had to stop! As worried as he was over the surgery, he was very disappointed to not be able to run the 10K. Our group rallied around him and prayed for the surgery and his recovery. The surgery was a week after the race, but he was there cheering us on as each one of our group crossed the finish line.

So one year later, following the surgery and rehab, Doug ran the 5K at the Run at the Mill! He feels better than ever and will be at the Peactree again this year! Those prayers were answered!

The three of us before the race.

Praise #2 – Last year’s Run for God group from our church decided to dedicate our run to Vicki Callahan, one of the most Godly women I know. She had leukemia and was going through a grueling bone marrow transplant at the time. After spending months in isolation at a hospital in Atlanta, she was sick, weak and practically skin and bones. To be honest, I was not sure she was going to survive the ordeal. Many. many people were praying for her and she slowly began making progress. Now, one year later, she is back home, enjoying her family and friends and singing in the choir at church! More prayers answered!

Vicki and her grandson today.


Praise #3 – To cap off my day of praise, we had a special event in our family last Saturday – our son Adam proposed to his girlfriend Jess! I knew he had the ring and that he was going to take her to lunch, pop the question, then return home where several of their friends would be waiting to congratulate them, so all morning I was excited thinking about it. Adam was so pumped for the suprise and to finally put the ring on her finger. We love Jess like a daughter already, and I feel overwhelmed – happy and proud – that Adam’s life is coming together for him. I have prayed since he was a little boy for the woman he would marry and God is answering those prayers with a smart, beautiful, fun loving lady who loves him as much as he loves her!



I don’t know why God answers some prayers and appears to not answer others, but for today, I am thankful for the good things in life and happy days.

 

Christianity · Running · Writing

On Beginning

The other day I ran into a friend who shares my love of writing and we were discussing how we both feel this pull to do good work, but are not sure exactly how to get there. Then I saw this insightful quote from Ira Glass, the NPR host of “This American Life” , which is about this dilemma – click on the picture to hear Ira:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me.  All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.”

Ever felt this way, knowing that what you are doing is not quite hitting the mark? Most of us have felt ourselves sinking into this gap when struggling to learn something new, like a computer program or even just how to use our phones!  In our jobs we are constantly working to accomplish more, to do it better, to get it right – and if we have any perfectionism in us, it never feels good enough. When we put ourselves out there with any artistic work, it feels worse. That illusory goal of doing something well always seems out of our grasp and we want to just say, ‘Oh the heck with it!’ 

But Ira continues: “A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this.” 

Whew, that is comforting to read! Maybe this disconnect I feel between what I want to write and what is actually coming out means that I am heading in the right direction. But when will it feel easy? 

Ira responds: “….if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

I think of other areas of my life where I have “fought my way through”, such as playing the piano, which I have done since I was a little girl.  I am not a gifted pianist, but after years and years of scales and Bach Two Part Inventions, and music theory and practising hymns, my fingers know where the notes are and how to form the chords. Those keys are a part of me and it comes pretty easily, even though I don’t play much any more. This past Sunday I got to play keyboards with our church’s praise band and had a ball! I love getting to combine my chords with the guitars and bass and drums and voices to create beautiful music! I enjoyed the fruits of all those hours practising. The same is true for running. I was never an athlete, but started running in college and continued throughout my twenties, then quit for about 15 years. I still remember when I started back, going out in my old sneakers and baggy sweatpants to run down my road – I didn’t get very far! But miles and miles later, running in town, out in the country, around tracks, on treadmills and trails, I now feel comfortable calling myself a runner. When I put on my running clothes and start out, my body falls into the rhythm, and I feel at home. Someday I would love to be able to call myself a writer, to have it feel as much a part of me as playing the piano or running, but I know I have miles to go and lots of words to write to get there. Meantime, fear of failure and lack of self-confidence hold me back, and I am trying to learn to “push through”. 

I am reminded of one of my favorite verses, Paul’s encouragement to Timothy: “..I remind you to fan into the flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (II Timothy 1:6-7) God does not want us to be afraid of exploring new paths, especially if we feel called by Him to try them. He wants us to perfect the gifts He has given us, to “fan the flame”, even if it means lots of time and hard work. And He has promised to give us the power to do what He calls us to do! So if you are feel you are standing in this gap today between where you are and where you want to be, I challenge you, along with myself, to not give up! If we keep on pushing through, we may be surprised where we land

!

Christianity · Christmas · Running · Spirituality · Uncategorized

Do You Hear What I Hear?

How to make Christmas meaningful? That has been our discussion in Sunday School these past few weeks and one that I struggle with each year. Christmas is a challenge when you have grown up in the church, when every year you have heard the same story about the baby in the manger, the shepherds and wise men. No matter how hard I try, each year I feel hollow during the season, like I am missing something.

The Advent devotional in my Upper Room magazine on the first Sunday in Advent noted that although this time of year is busy and we feel “distracted, depleted and even disconnected from God”, it is precisely when we need to be listening for that ‘still small voice’. That clicked with me. Listening during Christmas. It seemed so simple, yet hard to do when I am always rushing around.

“Be still before The Lord and wait patiently for him;” (Psalm 37:7) I love it when someone listens to me and I feel very frustrated when I feel like I am not being heard. Maybe God feels the same way – maybe He gets tired of me not hearing Him. I decided this could be my gift to Jesus – to listen.

So for the the last two weeks my mantra has been listen.

I left off my earbuds and ran in the quiet and heard the birds singing. When I was busy in the library and a woman came in and started telling me how much she was missing her grandchildren who had moved away, I put aside my pile of books and listened. In Sunday School last week I wanted to put in my two cents, but instead I sat quietly and thought about what the teacher was saying. At the Silver Bell Sprint 5K on Friday, I tuned in to all the jingle bells on the runners’ shoes and to the little girl running next to me who, when I told her “Good job”, told me “Good job” also and we proceeded to have a conversation about how Santa should be out running with us. As the beautiful carols of Christmas have been all around me, I have centered in on the meaning of the lyrics.

I am a talker, but I have noticed this week as I have tried to listen, I have felt calmer – quieter. For the first time in many years, I am not dreading Christmas. I feel less pulled in twenty different directions, more focused.
And God is coming through. Twice over the past few weeks, I have gotten angry and wanted to blast off an email letting the offending person know how I felt.  But I slowed down and asked God to tell me what to do – and heard Him telling me to react out of love, not with the self righteousnes I was feeling.
I keep thinking about the line of the song that I first sang in junior high chorus – “Do You Hear What I Hear?” –
“Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy..Do you hear what I hear? Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy.” What if the little lamb had not heard what the night wind said? What if the shepherds had not paid attention to the star? They would have missed Jesus coming with his prayer for peace. How much do I miss in a day that God is trying to tell me because I am distracted by all the other noises out there?
My gift to Jesus this Advent Season is to listen to the music, voices, and quiet of Christmas – and to see what I receive back. I challenge you to do the same.