The Failure Forest

flickr image by daniel_sh
I haven't run for 6 weeks because of some low back/hip/sciatic/inflammation issues. (Yes it's multiple choice on what this condition is!) After 3 months of physical therapy and 3 different physical therapists I've been given the "okay to run". This is life giving to me. Suh weet.

In this season I have discovered some things about my mental mood when I'm not running. I don't like not running. I don't like how I feel and when I'm not running, it's easy to make excuses to not run.

The drip of endorphins had totally gone dry. Mentally it was easier to be brought down. There is the constant back and forth in my mind not landing wholly on clarity. Leave. No stay. No leave. No stay. Then there's the full serving plate (and I'm not talking food). I love to serve others. It's one of my spiritual gifts, ya know, and when I don't feel satisfied I fill that plate up like a pasta carbo load before a marathon, (by the way I don't pasta load).  

My doctors and physical therapists still can't pinpoint what has my back in stressed mode but it's not exercise induced. Praise God! I think it has something to do with a stressful job and sitting in a chair all day.

So for Lent I gave up cookies, cake, candy, candy bars, and sweets in general. I also gave up the need for outside affirmation. That's a difficult one. Sometimes just cracking jokes is enough to give me affirmation. So not sure how I gave that up.  

Yesterday I did a last minute fast. I was driving to the doctors having fasted through the night and morning for blood work. So I thought, "Well I've fasted this long, how about fasting all day?" 

Unfortunately I didn't approach it with a wisdom mindset so I was just praying that magical prayer that God would let me know what to do. "Leave." or "Stay." I truly wanted to hear one of those. Nope. I didn't. I have a feeling though that if I encountered the burning bush with a big sign that said, "Janet, leave." I'd still question whether it was me he was talking to or some other Janet. I want my God to be specific, not general.

I've been reading If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get out of the Boat by John Ortberg. I read it 12 years ago and it applied for that chapter of my life and it applies today too. My reluctance to change all gets down to fear. If I do this, it equals that. Or so I think. If I change direction like I did 7 years ago and fail again, it means that I'm not really good at what I'm told I'm good at. It means that I didn't listen 7 years ago, for the same reasons that I may not be listening now. It means I may have a certain amount of determination to get out of a situation that is toxic, stagnant, and life sucking. It means that I have to trust God all over again in something that I have yet to figure out 7 years later why I was in a situation that was hell.

I've failed at many things but I try to keep it at a minimum. I recover. So why do I fear it? I don't want to keep running back to God with the same old complaints. Somehow I don't think God minds that I run back to him.
The cave of failure offers a precious chance to learn. But we must be willing to ask courageous questions:
Am I chasing the right dream?
Is what I'm pursuing consistent with God's calling on my life?
Am I operating out of what God made me to do, or out of my own needs for appearing important and significant?
Am I willing to remain in the cave if it means being true to God?–Ortberg
Some days it's really hard to see the forest for the trees.

Run Forrest run!

Seize the J
I'm on the edge of losing it—the pain in my gut keeps burning. I'm ready to tell my story of failure ... I have many aggressive enemies; they hate me without reason. They repay me evil for good and oppose me for pursuing good. Psalm 38:17-20

Chalk It Up

flickr image by Francis Bourgouin
I'm reading My Reading Life by Pat Conroy. He writes about a teacher that influenced his life and I've thought about the teachers who have influenced me.

Mrs. Albertson, my kindergarten teacher. I loved playing with a large cloth doll in her classroom. I was fascinated zipping its zippers and buttoning its buttons and tying its shoes. I'm sure her kindness was a good influence and a good start to a life of learning. Mrs. Gravett, my 4th grade teacher, who always made sure her students had hugs. Mr. Beeler, who was a great algebra and geometry teacher and always had a joke and a smile. Mr. Housman, history, who snarled when I corrected his spelling (an editor in the making back then). And Mr. Ogden, my typing teacher, influenced me as I type this today.

There was Professor Green who, to my surprise, read my paper out loud in class. I rode on eagles wings that day when I heard the words I'd written being read aloud by him. (Later Robert congratulated me for this honor. Good ol' Roberto, where's my beach friend?) Professor Green was an encouragement to me as I had yet to declare a major. I'll never be the kind of author I dreamed I would be writing from the garret. Some dreams are tender to remember.
Good writing is one of the forms that hard labor takes. It is neither roadhouse nor weigh station, but much more like some unnameable station of the cross.
—Pat Conroy
What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.—Karl Menninger
And then there are those that confuse me as to why they chose that path and I drop them from any speck of influence. She had the audacity to raise her hand to slap me and later that afternoon did a psychological "artist" exercise for us to draw our feelings on paper. And being the good little student, I drew all red and black scribbles as tears streamed down my face. Her psychological exercise wasn't lost on me. He was a poor teacher who picked me out of class to read a letter that was passed back to me. Up until that time I rather liked math.

I'm sure there's some forgiveness lesson in here, and I'm not forgettin'. It's a great story.
In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God's part.
(Matthew 6:14,15 MSG)
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
(Psalm 139:23)
Seize the J

My Left Hamstring

photo: St. Peter's Episcopal Church
San Pedro
Last year I took a challenge from a Purpose Driven Life devotion to trust God. It's not like I think about not trusting God, but there are areas of my life that I like to be "all in" and "hands on". Purpose Driven Life specifically said to "Ask God to help you give your trust to him." Hmmm. Ask God for that trust? Okay I can do that. 

I have to say I didn't see much happening for the 1st 6 months or so. Life happened in the day to day. So in June I asked myself, "What am I doing asking God to help me trust him?" What if I did it the bold way and said, "God I trust you with this. I don't know what you're doing, but I trust you do."

So whenever something came up that I wanted to get my hands and mind involved with, I'd say to God, "I trust you God with this." I trust you with this day. I trust you with this relationship. I trust you with my job. I trust you with this 10 mile run. I trust you with my health. I trust you with my life. I trust you know what's going on because I don't.

And so it goes.

And little by little I began to trust. Not because I was asking for trust but because I said, "I trust." Whether I felt like I was trusting or not, I put it out there that I was trusting.

It's a little like doing my training runs on those hot summer mornings. The kind I love that are all thick with humidity and 90 degrees at 8 o'clock in the morning and the trails are a welcome place to run because of the shade. I didn't know if I could run the 8 miles on my training log that day. What would my feet feel like, what about my knees, how much pain when it was over? Well now I know there's nothing I like more than an 8 mile run. And so I began to trust that I'd get through that 8 mile run, and that 10 mile run and eventually the 13.1. (And my feet and knees felt fine. It was the summer skin heat rash that was painful!)

I can't say that I have the trust thing all cornered down. I'm not saying that there aren't times when I want to take it back and get my hands all dirty in the mud pie of it and that I make a decision on my own that doesn't feel like trust. There are mornings when I look in the mirror after a sleepless night of tossing and turning over something that left me puzzled or tears staining my brain. When that uncertainty crept in and I asked, "What am I doing in this?" It followed that, "I don't know what you're doing God, but I trust you that you do."

I've discovered my trust and faith is like my left hamstring, I know it's there, but I have to exercise it, tighten it on cue to feel it.

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see. (Hebrews 11:1 MSG)
Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1 CEV)
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1 NLT)
Happy New Year!

Seize the J

Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can't Lose

Nicci Mechler flickr image
I have green eyes, sometimes they appear blue or teal depending on what I'm wearing. I'm not really referring to the color of my eyes though. I'm referring to the green-eyed monster-- jealousy, envy.

Merriam Webster's definition 2 fits what I'm talkin' about: hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage. Or what Henry Nouwen recognizes as jealousy: "Why are you now suddenly so interested in someone else and not in me?"*

The only thing this jealousy brings about is I may understand a little bit more that God is jealous for me. I've never understood this because he's God! for crying out loud. What does he have to be jealous of? He's got the whole world in his hands right? He made the stars and put them there, he counted the sand. I mean it's just little ol' me down here trying to make it in the world today. But he wants my attention. He wants to be the only one. No one comes before him. And that I understand.

Dr. Townsend, the combo of Henry Cloud and John Townsend, has a video that helped me understand where some of this jealousy comes from. He says that if one didn't receive a lot of affirmation, and that they always thought they got the short end of the stick, that sometimes leads to a jealous feelings in life.
My dating experience has been anything but stellar. And one of the common themes was that no matter who I was seeing, he had someone else on the back burner, just in case I guess. How crummy is that! One of these guys even told me he was dating me and someone else because he was trying to figure out who was better for him! Yeah guess he picked the right one because I was better than that is all I have to say!
Is it really any wonder that I have a jealous streak?

So the result is I don't really trust that people want to stick with me. Seriously, that's the pattern that's been established here isn't it? What I'm looking for in a relationship is the man that says to himself, this girl is something special, she is something else, she is something to be pursued. I'm done serial dating. I'm done with serial relationships. She is one I want to know.

This comes back to my last blog post below, are you leading your life, are you leading your days, for the person you are looking for. Because I am looking at you.

One of the things I ponder is do singles know that we need to be living our lives as a single, the same way we'd live our lives in a one on one relationship? 

If you treat women as if they are on the back burner in your single life, do you realize you'll treat that special someone when you meet her as if she's on the back burner? 

When you ignore me in the discussion, at the grocery store, on the sidelines, you'll ignore me in the relationship. 

And I realize this applies to me too. If I'm not feeling so right now, I will not be so right in a relationship later. 

I'm not saying change who you are to be a certain way only for it to be false. I'm not saying adapt interests to attract someone you're not. 

I'm just sayin': Are you the person you want to be in a relationship with? 

One of my favorite TV shows was Friday Night Lights. One of the phrases the players said in their huddle in the locker room was "Clear eyes, full heart, can't lose." 

That's me. Can't lose.

Seize the J

* Touching the Holy, Robert J. Wicks, p. 31

What Time Is It?

Bristolbikes flickr photo
I'm at that stage. The one I thought I would never be at. The one that I said if I ever get to this stage it means I've given up. The one that is similar to the one right around age 30 when I said, "If I'm still going to bars when I get that old, tell me to give it up." (Not goin' to bars anymore for those reasons. Thank God I wised up.)

I'm at that the stage that means I've given up. There must be no hope left. The one where I would let no one pity me after hearing my friend Jeff say to Mary, "I feel sorry for Janet." Ick. I never want anyone to pity me. Then and there I had decided to be the best single person I could be. And I was for a long time.

I have reached that stage again though. The point of exhaustion. Scraping the rocks. The one where there is nothing left. The one I thought I'd reached many times before. The one where I've cried tears of exhaustion that I'm afraid I'll be the last single person left on the face of the earth. Yeah that one!

So for the 2nd time I've been listening to Andy Stanley's  The New Rules for Love, Sex, & Dating sermon series. If you're single or you have a single friend you care about, listen to this series. Andy issues a challenge to quit dating for one year. That's not really a challenge to me because I'm not dating, but I've thought about it in another way. 

What if for one year I don't think about men in romantic terms? Instead I : renew my mind. Overcome temptation to look. Speak respectfully. Change the way I think about and treat men. Inhabit a positive attitude.

What if I quit talking to God about this and instead trusted my life to him? Well there are all kinds of reasons this sounds totally ridiculous. For one it's horrible timing. God doesn't have a Swatch, a Timex, or my favorite Movado watch so who cares about timing? And what will I learn about myself anyway? That I'm yet alone again naturally? Like I need a reminder.

Andy asks this question:

Are you who the person you are looking for is looking for?

I want to be the person I’m looking for is looking for. The one thing I'd like to be that my person is looking forfun! There has been a lack of play time in my life. What do I like to do for fun? Run, bike, take road trips for a day, look at old stuff, vintage, antique, watch movies, watch basketball, go to the theater, go to concerts, bake cookies, pizza, play on swings in the park, color in coloring books (for real!)

Let's see how many times have I surrendered this? And how many more times? If I surrender every day so what?

The journal entry goes something like this: This dream is yours to begin with. It's yours. And when I want to take it back and possess it, remind me I gave it to you. I trust you with my dream.

Seize the J

I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. (Jeremiah 29:11)