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!


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. 

aging · grace · Uncategorized

Covering Up

We’re all hiding something.

I have been thinking about this ever since our tree man was out a few weeks ago to take away yet another of our big old trees, this one a giant walnut that was uprooted during a bad storm.

“That big walnut came down because it was weak on the inside,” he informed us, and sure enough, when I walked around to the other side, I could see where lightning had hollowed it out many years ago. All this time it has been standing, growing, producing walnuts, giving us shade, and providing a home for squirrels and woodpeckers, but was dying on the inside. I didn’t know.

The more I talk to people, the more I have decided everyone has something not right in their life that they are hiding. Even the happiest, most full of life people have heartaches and problems that they don’t want others to know about. Just like that tree, most of us try to look good on the outside while dealing with rot that threatens to take us down.

I have a physical deformity that I try to keep under wraps. My left foot has slowly become misshapen over the years with a bunion that extends way out to resemble the coast of North Carolina, while my second toe subsequently juts up into the air and then crosses over my big toe. It’s pretty scary looking, and I do my best to keep others from seeing it. 

People have asked me why I don’t get it operated on, but I have been twice to a very handsome orthopedic foot doctor who told me that if it was not hurting to leave it alone, because if he operated it would be stiff and I would not be able to run. As long as I wear my cute little Skechers or my running shoes with the mesh top or my sandals with the huge flowers, my foot feels fine and and doesn’t bother me.  After all, what’s a goofy looking foot in the great scheme of things?

Every now and then, however, it becomes a problem, like when I need to get dressed up. Recently I was going to a very fancy wedding and bought a beautiful new dress, so I needed to buy dress shoes to go with it. Ugh! 

After looking all over the mall with no success, I went to a gargantuan shoe store that seemed to stretch for a mile. Surely they would have something I could wear that wouldn’t look like my grandmother’s orthopedic shoes. I felt like Cinderella’s stepsister as I tried to squeeze my weird foot into pair after pair of heels.  I finally found some that were pretty stylish and that I thought I could wear at least for a few hours without too much pain. And all this because I want to cover up my ugly foot!

Wearing my fancy dress and new shoes!

My messed up foot symbolizes this whole issue of keeping our problems hidden. When I look at it I am reminded of my imperfections, which are a part of me as much as my foot. As I have gotten to this phase of my life, I am realizing that, like my foot, I can’t do much to change many of the issues in my life other than to work on my attitude. And working on my attitude means lots of prayer, over and over. But it also means sometimes letting others see those parts of me that I usually keep covered up, and through God’s grace, finding that my problems seem smaller when shared.


Most of us have known someone who falls, like our walnut tree, and then everyone says, “We didn’t know there was a problem!”  That is a tragedy. Knowing how much I appreciate other people giving me the gift of grace and understanding, I  try every day to be sensitive to those around me and to remember to be kind, because everyone we meet is fighting a hard battle.  


 

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.
health · Menopause · Running · Spirituality · Uncategorized

Still outrunning old age

I’m sure those of you who read my last blog about my elevated cholesterol levels have been anxiously waiting to hear about my doctor appointment this week (please hear the sarcasm in this!) I met on Thursday with sweet Dr. Wood who let me know  that my cholesterol was up because my good HDL was high – as predicted by Dr. Laura Lomax. She also was not overly concerned about my bone density, unlike the bone scan technician who had me feeling like I was one stumble away from a wheelchair. 

As Dr. Wood and I finished our discussion, she showed me a computer program that she used to calculate my chances of having a broken bone in the next 35 years. Right now I have a .2 chance of having a hip fracture and 7.7 chance of another type of break. When I am 90, that number goes up to 20% for the hip and 35% for the rest of my bones. She passed this information on to me with a smile and a reassurance that all was well. 

Those graphs have been on my mind since then – my future fractures measured out in nice neat numbers and scientific predictions. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had graphical predictions for everything that is going to happen in the future? Maybe a graph to let me know when I am going to become widowed? Or one to tell me when to expect cancer to sneak up on me? How about one that shows me how Adam’s life is going to play out over the next 35 years?

I recently finished a Young Adult trilogy called Matched by Ally Conde, set in a future world where the government controls every aspect of life in order to ensure a safe and happy life for its citizens. The “Society’ determines what each person eats and how much they exercise and has eradicated cancer and other life threatening diseases so that everyone lives into their 80’s, when they are euthanized at a special ceremony. The government chooses each person’s vocation and life mate – everything is well ordered, predictable and comfortable. 

As with all utopian societies, an element of unrest is percolating beneath the surface. Conde’s theme throughout the book is that people need choice in their lives, from their life’s mate to the books they read. Her characters risk their lives for a life that is more than just safe and secure. If I could get a printout of my next 35 years, would I want it? I don’t think so. 

I heard again today of another man dying too young, the friend of my cousin Garner who left behind a wife and 10 year old son, a triathlete with no family history of heart disease. Would a graph of his life have predicted this outcome? Probably not. The graph from my doctor assumes I will not trip on a curb on an early morning run or fall over my cat getting up from the couch. Like it or not, life is unpredictable.

But that is what we have, and I have decided to quit worrying. Each run is a gift, a thanksgiving to God for my healthy body and all that is good in my life. Today I gloried in the sunny day, the bright red of the fuschia bushes in front of the house, and  the mountain views at the top of the hill. 

My reward for making it up the hill

 As the Psalmist says, I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and I thank God each day for this healthy body He has given me and for the life I have. During this Thanksgiving season, be sure to give Him praise for what He has given you.