aging · Christianity · Health · Running · Uncategorized

How strong are you?

About a year ago I was diagnosed with the beginning of osteoporosis, which made me feel old and brittle and worried about getting a humpback. My mother fell and broke her hip while putting up Christmas decorations when she was younger than I am now and suffered from it for the rest of her life. I have a horror of something similar happening, so in addition to the over-the-counter calcium the doctor suggested, I started going to a class for weight training. Resistance training builds strong bones. 



Most Tuesday and Thursday mornings I crawl out of bed at 4:20, drink a cup of coffee, put on my clothes and meet some other brave souls to lift weights for an hour to loud music. Our leader, Jan, is a high school math teacher who actually makes getting up that early fun. Our class is not one of those where you kill yourself by pushing over tractor tires, but it’s not easy either. We put weights on a bar and place it on our shoulders and do lots of squats and lunges. We then work on our biceps and triceps and shoulders and lie down on our mats and do planks and crunches. Afterwards we have a relaxing cool down stretch. 



I love how the weight lifting makes me feel and I hope my bones are getting better. One of the unexpected results of the cross training has been how much my running has improved since my legs and core have gotten stronger. I am running less miles but feel great during my runs and I’m even a little faster. Also, I have less jiggly stuff under my arms. 



But I  know my limitations when it comes to weights.  My legs are fairly strong, but like most women, I don’t have much upper body strength. I still cheat and get on my knees instead of my toes for push-ups. I’m sure I would improve with more work, but I am never going to be able to bench press like the body builders at my gym. My ’50 something’ body can only do so much.



I’m realizing, however, that when it comes to getting stronger spiritually, I’m barely tapping into my resources. Some friends and I are doing a “virtual prayer group” and praying through the month of January with 31 Days of Prayer for the New Year. One day last week the prayer was: 

 

”Pray that you will lean on God for strength, in the good times and in the bad.  May He become your backbone and source of your strength.”

People in Bible times needed to be physically strong. I wonder if because our day to day lives are so much easier that we can’t appreciate how Jesus’s words sounded to them. Take for example the woman at the well in John 4. When Jesus tells her that He has water that will keep her from being thirsty again, her first thought is how wonderful it would be to not have the daily chore of lugging water back to her home. Think about how much water we use in a day, taking showers, washing our clothes, doing the dishes. I can’t imagine having to carry that into my house every day. So of course that is what she thinks about. But Jesus is not talking about her physical needs, but her spiritual ones. As she struggles to pull the heavy bucket up from the well, he tells her: 

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  (John 4:13-14)

This is the source we have to draw from, but I feel I often ignore it.

 Sometimes when I am going through a hard time and ask God for strength, I treat Him like a trainer at the gym. “Just show me what to do to get results” is the unspoken request. But instead, He has this infinite supply of power that is there for me to draw from. I don’t have to be strong within myself, I just need to keep the channels open between Him and me so that I can pull from that source when I need it. It’s kind of like having one of those body builders around all the time to pick up anything heavy that I need. 



What a relief to know that I don’t have to work on building my spiritual muscle, that God has already done it for me!


cats · death of pet · Uncategorized

Good-bye to the Mighty Hunter

Death always comes when we least expect it. 

I have sat by my mother and father’s bedsides knowing they were at death’s door, but still felt a sense of unbelief when the time actually came – they really died? As in, they are not here any more?  I always remember how awful the weeks were leading up to my sister’s death and I just wanted it to be over – but somehow did not realize that “being over” meant she would be gone. 

Keith and I are going through that now after the death of our sweet kitty Nellie, who was part of our family for 13 years. I wrote about him in The Mighty Hunter just a few months ago. 

When you have someone old in your life, a friend, family member or pet, you know that the day will come when you will have to face their death, but you want to put it off as long as possible. Several times over the past few years I thought we were at that point with Nellie, like the time he ate a bird and got so constipated I had to rush him to the vet or times he stayed out all night and I was sure a coyote had gotten him. On those days I prayed, “Lord, I know this day is coming, but don’t let it be today.” When we couldn’t find him Thursday morning, Keith assured me he was fine, probably out at the shed. When we found him sleeping so soundly in the monkey grass that he didn’t stir when I called, we were still sure he was fine, just really tired. So I didn’t pray for the day to not be today. Around noon he woke up, staggered around, and just died. Thursday was the day.

Grief is about adjusting to things being different. Not having Nellie around is not life altering like losing a husband or child or mother, but it is routine altering. Practically every aspect of our daily life, from sleeping to eating to working inside and out – even our bathroom habits – involved our small cat in some way.  Now we are seeing empty places all over the house and yard.

  


I always thought God brought Nellie to us. We were in between pets, and I had prayed for another cat. One day I was washing dishes and looked out the kitchen window and a scrawny little orange cat was looking at me and meowing up a storm – “Feed me!” We fed him, took him to the  vet where $200 later he had gotten shots and been treated for a cough. A few days later we realized he was the same cat that someone had brought our neighbor and his name was Pumpkin.  As soon as they had put him down in the yard, their dog took out after him, he ran across the road and then this house cat, who had always had a food dish at his disposal, fended for himself in the woods for 2 weeks. No wonder he was happy to stay with us for the next 13 years! Adam was in his rap music phase, so named him Nellie for the popular group of the time. Since Adam went away to school it has been the three of us living here, Keith and Nellie and me, getting older and more set in our ways each year. 

Helping me snap beans


He made us laugh – he often reminded me of a toddler. If I was at the table paying bills or writing a note, he would sit in my lap and try to get the pen out of my hand, or push papers to the floor just to see them drop. On long winter days, he would get bored and play with the toy we fashioned him – a ball of yarn tied to a toy mouse, which he rolled all over the dining room, under tables and chairs. We never knew where he might choose as his new sleeping spot, the white living room couch, my book bag on the floor, the clean clothes I left out on the blanket chest.  If I sat down on the couch with my Ipad or laptop, he was there too, and I have often typed with him lying across my lap as my wrist guard.  He and I did our devotionals together each morning, and I would have to brush cat hair off my Bible on Sundays.


The winter was hard on him, but he had been like a kid with the warm weather this last month, staying outside until dark. He loved to sit on the landing by the back steps, like a king surveying his kingdom. He had even killed a small rat and eaten his favorite part, the head, leaving the rest on the stoop for us. His last week was perfect and he enjoyed it – what more can any of us ask?



I came across this quote and have been thinking about it today:


Nellie was the soul of our home, a place where we can be completely relaxed and safe, where we feel loved and cared for. His trust in Keith and me was complete. His little purrs of welcome in the morning and afternoon let me know that no matter how my day had been, he was happy to see me and would love me. That’s what family is all about.


aging · Health · Menopause · Running · Uncategorized

Outrunning old age?

Cholesterol1

For all my adult life, going in for my annual physical was alot like going to Adam’s parent/teacher conferences when he was growing up – all  warm fuzzies and “You’re doing a great job” and “No problems here.”  After all, I’m not overweight, I run, I don’t smoke, I eat lots of fruits and vegetables – and did I mention, I run? Running has felt like my talisman against any health issues – after all, if I can run a half-marathon, surely nothing could be wrong with my body, right?

Wrong.

I recently went for a bone scan and bloodwork at my new doctor’s office, a very personable OBGYN who was recommended to me as someone who has a concentration on women in “my stage of life”. (Unlike the girls of today who have no problem mentioning their – um, periods –  around the opposite sex, I still feel akward saying I am in “menopause”, but there it is.) I was not surprised at the results of the bone scan, showing that I am going down the slippery slope to osteoperosis, since my mother and grandmothers all had it, and my scan from several years ago showed bone loss. I was prepared to have to start weight lifting and maybe even some sort of hormone therapy. What I was not prepared for was the results of my bloodwork, showing that I – the runner- now have high cholesterol!

Surely the lab made a mistake and got my blood mixed up! In our family, Keith’s side has the cholesterol and heart issues and my side has cancer, plain and simple. My parents always ate whatever they wanted, and even though my mother was pretty heavy on the cheese and butter,  never had cholesterol problems. My mother and grandmothers didn’t really die of anything specific, but basically just wore out at an old age. Keith’s family on the other hand, have all died at fairly young ages of heart related problems. I’m always on him about his eating and worry about his cholesterol, so he thinks this change is pretty humorous – I feel like my body has tricked me!

My research has shown  that cholesterol often goes up in ladies in my “stage of life”. Great. Here’s the other kicker – I have struggled all my life with my weight – in fact, sadly I have based much of my self-worth on what the scale says – and the last few months I have gotten down to a very good weight for me. So get this – osteoporosis is worse in thin people, because if you are carrying around a lot of pounds, your bones are getting weight bearing work all the time! Is there no justice here?

So here’s my confession – even though I know in my head that at least 90% of my good health all my life comes from my genes, I have still harbored a certain feeling of superiority in my low blood pressure, good cholesterol, and ability to pretty much do whatever I feel like. Now I am having to admit that just because I am a runner, I am not immune to my body letting me down. I’m just thankful it is not worse.

I go this week to talk with my sweet doctor, but I pretty much know what she will say – I need to do more cross training so that I am exercising every day, not just those few running days, weight bearing for my bones, and more focus on my diet – I guess I need to  cut back on the red meat and sweets, and  drink red wine(!) We will discuss hormones, although I am not so sure I want to go down that road. I feel like the student who has made a bad grade and has to face the music.

Isn’t it sad that I am feeling guilty over what is a normal part of aging? I don’t apologize for my gray hair and wrinkles, yet I feel like it is my fault that these other changes are happening.

What has been your experience?