The Year 2012 in Review

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

A lot happened this year.

What?  You want details?

Here are a few statistics:

The world did not end on December 21, 2012.  Already, things are looking up.

I worked out 300 times.  Yes, I keep track.  It keeps me accountable.

Zac is a teenager now. He’s also taller than me.

I read the Bible through in a year, along with Zac.  I set it up so we could read it online or on our phones.  YouVersion, though mobile and versatile, has some quirks.  Sometimes it simply won’t load.  Instead of keeping with the day you missed, it automatically goes to the next calendar day.  My chronological plan showed that I had completed the plan…at 88%.  What?!  I went back through, month by month, and discovered at least 2 dozen days I  hadn’t read.  Marvelous.  I had some serious catching up to do.

What did I get out of reading the Bible through this year?  I really saw that what God plans to do, gets done.  It might not fit into our timetable (think of Ezra and the Israelites rebuilding Jerusalem, getting thwarted for years), but it happens. ” His will be done” seemed to be the theme, especially as I read all the catch-up chapters.  It really jumped out at me.

I grew an inch.  Not really.

I ran 895 miles in 2012.  Should I try to squeeze in the last 5 miles to make it an even 900?  Vote now!

It’s funny to think that I ran most of those miles in Washington, but also in Oregon, Michigan and Hawaii.  What a great year for traveling!

Ruby lost 4 teeth.

What I learned from the marathon:  Looking back on my calendar, I post the total mileage of every day I run.  And I can see, up through April of this year, I didn’t run much.  My leg hurt.  I lacked motivation and battled discouragement.  Some weeks, I only ran once.  Training for the marathon motivated me, galvanized me for something greater.  Even then, I can see I still didn’t put in the mileage necessary to finish the marathon.  Sure, I can blame vacations and trips out-of-town.  But in the end, it boils down to the fact that I simply did not run enough.  My leg still hurt.  I never had that mental/spiritual/physical breakthrough you need to believe and achieve the 26.2 mile distance.  In the end, you cannot force that.  It either happens or it doesn’t.  If I attempt it again, I’ll not be so easy on myself and I will make sure I am injury-free before even starting  to train.

One of the great highlights this year was taking the Biblical Foundations of Freedom in Christ class at my sister-in-law’s house.  It changed my life.  I dealt with my old bitterness and unforgiveness, rejection and all of that ilk.  Am I perfect now?  No.  Is there more stuff?  Sure.  But my quality of life is so much better now than it was last year. I am more aware of seeing the best in people, not looking at them through my filter of rejection.  I am not carrying around all that extra emotional baggage.  Hallelujah!

Jonathon’s research topic for his dissertation got approved.

Did I find my happy weight?  Yes.  It’s a bit higher than I originally thought. I have no desire to be super skinny.  I want to be strong and healthy.  I need to fuel my body for success.  I need to eat because I’m hungry, not out of an emotional need.  I forbid myself no food, though I may eat less of it.  Am I at that magical weight all the time?  No.  But I know what to do to get and stay there.

Dear readers, thank you so much for reading this past year.  Your loyalty encourages me.  It’s been a tough one – Jonathon out of work for half of it, bonking at the marathon, the loss of the amazing Nellie Isham – but also rewarding as we keep pressing on in this life.  Relationships with family and friends were strengthened.  We’re becoming more a part of this community and our church.  This is where we belong and we look forward to this great adventure in 2013.  His will be done!

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Runner’s World Challenge Post-Mortem

Guy Running in Snow with Santa Hat

Sounds grim?  We’re coming to the end of a season and it’s time to discover the Lessons Learned.  If you’re interested, here’s the link.

The challenge:  Run at least 1 mile every day between Thanksgiving and New Years.  Combat boredom and weight creep (hello, Christmas cookies!) and keep the dream alive for racing season.

In the 40 days since Thanksgiving, I have run 111 miles; tomorrow I will run a few more.  I hope to reach 120 miles, but we’ll see.

True confessions:  I took 2 days off.  One day was just after the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings.  My heart was broken and I couldn’t put myself into it.  The other was Christmas Day.  It snowed and the roads were dicey.  It melted off by the afternoon, but I was exhausted from Christmas festivities and it simply didn’t feel right to work out on Christmas.  I wanted to keep it special.  You can blame it on my upbringing if you like.  Plus, running every day really was brutal on my body.  I did have a few days where I only ran 1 mile – that was the minimum – but most days I ran at least two.  I have to say that I didn’t really like running every day. I didn’t look forward to it as much. I had to remind myself to make it fun.  Sometimes I would do intervals (short bursts of speed), and sometimes I would run really slowly.  On days that I had kettlebells class, I ran and did the class.  That was kinda rough.  It felt like I was training for something, and yet it was only for getting up the next day to run again.  I worked my schedule so that I could run every day; I made it a priority.  I found if I did it in the morning before breakfast and I didn’t run too long, it was a better situation.  Though I ran better, performance-wise, after breakfast and  glorious coffee.

On the plus side, it did help with winter blahs and I found some sunbreaks to get out and enjoy, which I wouldn’t have attempted if I’d kept to my regular 3-day-a-week running schedule.  Also, I learned to cheer myself along every mile.  I am starting to talk to myself the way I’d talk to a good friend when they don’t want to keep going.  “Look how far you’ve already come!  You can do it.  Just do one mile and see how you feel. You got this”, etc.  While doing this – running more often but less mileage – it’s really helped my leg, somehow.  I still get locked up a bit and have a bit of pain, but not nearly what I had earlier in the year.  I guess you could say I was training for life itself.  I feel about this particular experiment the way running has changed my perspective on life:  it’s not the destination, but the journey.  Enjoy it.

Jumping Without A Net

trapeze artist

I ran 6 miles this morning.  Those of you who know me would say, “So what?”  But I haven’t run that far in a couple of months.  My leg is the culprit, and my own confidence.  I realized this morning how much crap I’ve been holding onto.

You could say I had a runner’s epiphany.  There was an article about them in “Runners World” magazine.  This writer would come back from his runs and say things to his wife like, “Honey!  I had this great idea!  We should put an enormous telescope in the backyard!” Or,  my personal favorite, “We need a bounce house for adults.”  I still want one.

I think the Lord is calling me up higher.  I can see glimpses of the person I want to be.  I read back through my first post of 2012 and realized it’s almost all come true.  I have become more available.  I have become less selfish – though not entirely so – it’s an ongoing process in this life.  I’ve also been called very original a lot this year.  At first, I didn’t find it very enlightening.  I didn’t – and don’t – seem to fit well into anyone’s particular mold or brand.  But now, I get it.  If you’re unique, you’ve no one to measure up to.  If you’re one-of-a-kind, you can be whoever you feel you need to be.  What a gift!  Nobody can compare you to someone else, because it’s like apples and oranges.  Both are fruits, but nobody makes orange pie.  By the same token, nobody uses apple zest to flavor baked goods.  And now somebody will comment on my blog and provide recipe links for both of those.  Whatever.

The point is that I want to be all the I’m meant to be.  For me, as a Christian, in part that means becoming more conformed to the image of Christ.  I need more fruits of the Spirit in my life – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (oho boy!).  But it also means being the best Susan I can be.  As the saying goes, “Be yourself.  Everyone else is already taken.”  As the obedient firstborn, I wanted to be somebody else.  I wanted so badly to “fit in”, to have my life-path make sense.  Thankfully, the part of me that is real would not go quietly.  It questioned.  It analyzed.  It preferred other things and had a different perspective.  It bucked the trend.

You know what?  Being different is not wrong.  It is not bad.  It does not mean that you are rebellious.  It only means there is variety in the world.  God made you that way.  You don’t have to apologize for not following a beaten path to a predictable goal.  You are not ungodly if you think for yourself.

For decades, I have deadened myself to purpose and drive and dreams.  I’ve used food.  I’ve used exercise.  I’ve used the scouring whip of condemnation.  I think I’ve even used past jobs to create some kind of meaning.  I don’t want to do that anymore.  We Westerners like a linear path.  But what if it’s been circular, or loopy, or even maze-like all along?  Does that make it less valid if it gets us where we need to go and we learn all we can?

Trapeze artists don’t use a net during performance.  They expect to be caught; they trust.  They let go of the swing, soar through the air, and clasp hands with their partner.  They flip and swing again, and again, beauty and grace in every line.  Their joy is palpable.  They are unafraid.  This new year, I will strive to do the same.

Cool It!

No hot flashes...yet.

No hot flashes…yet.

Today, several aspects of life are in transition.  We’re thinking through a few major life decisions. And my laptop blew up.  Well,  not in a “Mission Impossible” sort of way.  Just…fizzled out.  More like Bartleby the Scrivener: “I would prefer not to.” Not cool, Lucky!  Not cool at all.

Apparently, my fan has gone out.  Computer-savvy as I am, I just thought my computer had gotten quieter, more contemplative.  Nope. It’s lost its “cool” factor.  And my internet connection goes in and out because it seems to need to be chilled as well.  This feels like when I worked at Aspen and sometimes our air conditioner, positioned right over my desk, would leak onto my computer.  It dripped steadily from the ceiling.  I had the maintenance guys on speed dial.

Alexei, the regular custodian, would tell me in broken English, “If you close the conference room door, the system has to work too hard.  It will continue to drip on your desk.”  But keeping the door open was not an option for the types of meetings – some very confidential – going on at our firm.

Sometimes we lose our own “cooling”ability.  We close our minds to other possibilities, other ways of thinking.  We get angry or moody or temperamental and are unable to be rational about situations.  We see red and nothing else.   I recently got upset about a certain incident and it took someone with more wisdom than me to get me off the ceiling.  They could see green and blue and purple, shades of another perspective that eluded me in that moment.  Their insight saved me from possibly administering a wedgie. I am grateful for others’ “cooling” mechanisms that extend in grace to cover me as well.

As I type this with my on-again, off-again computer, I hope to finish before it crashes completely.  I need to remember that everything needs tending to at times.  Our appliances, our cars, our bodies, our attitudes.  I am learning to cool it.

A Dream Fulfilled

We got a Christmas card today from a couple we haven’t heard from in years.  They moved to Walla Walla for a church plant several years ago, and we lost touch.  As I went through my address book this year, I found their address.  I thought I’d send them a card on a whim.  So glad I did.

The gal and I became friends when I worked at The Food Group and we started attending New Song, back when they were in the old Christian Scientist building with the dome.  She worked at a little restaurant in the same block called Al Forno’s, now defunct.  I remembered she had this long curtain of dark brown hair.  She sang and danced before the Lord so freely, hair swirling around her like a banner.  Her joy and love were infectious.  I frequented the little Italian restaurant and spotted her right away.  I was curious about her so I struck up an acquaintance, and we became fast friends.  Then we moved away to Reedsport so Jonathon could take his first teaching job.

If remember my timeline right, we moved back in 2001 and renewed our friendship.  She was working at Regence then, in marketing.  She helped me get a series of interviews there that didn’t pan out.  I did eventually get a job at Aspen working on contract with the Energy Trust of Oregon, promoting their Building Efficiency and Industrial Efficiency programs.  We met for lunch regularly.  She was (and is) everyone’s friend, open, authentic and kind and funny.

Then she met a great guy at a church conference and they started seeing each other.  They got engaged and I played flute (a little) at their glorious wedding.  She’s one of those people you never forget; she really “got” how much God loves us.  She gave it out freely, in overflowing buckets, to anyone she came in contact with.

They sent a picture postcard type of Christmas card to us this year.  It featured the two of them, smiling, with a little Asian girl in their midst.  Finally, after years of trying to have a child and then deciding to adopt, they got their baby.  Some of you may know this couple.  They’re great people.  They’re now pastoring the church they helped plant.

Their dream of having a child came true.  I went to her blog and saw the timeline, starting back in 2009, where they wanted to adopt a child from Nepal.  Then Nepal closed it’s adoptions program to those in the U.S.  and they turned to China.  The persistence of this couple and the joy in all the process inspired me. What am I willing to do to go after the dream God planted in my heart?  They simply didn’t give up when encountering red tape, bureaucracy and all the human obstacles that inevitably crop up.  They knew they needed to take care of orphans and continue to believe for more children of the world to grace their family.

I’m still happy about that card. Rroverbs says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”  I’m thankful for the timely reminder of God’ goodness on the day after Christmas when the aftermath of the holiday high tide leaves one a little low.  I think, as 2012 comes to an end, I need to dust off some dreams of mine that have been moldering.  Dreams do still come true, if you keep on and keep believing.

Eve of Christmas, Part Deux

Eve

It’s snowing outside, almost two inches since it started 2 hours ago.  Presents and stockings are history.  Candles flicker on the mantel.  The Christmas tree, perpetually lit at our house, glows in the semi-darkness.  Nothing stirs outside.  It’s quiet and we’re all still cozily in our jammies.  I don’t think I’ll be going running today.  Under that snow is ice.  Yikes!

So I had a thought, which is why I’m blogging on Christmas.  It’s because of Eve that we even have Christmas.  Let me explain.

At the dawn of creation, Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden.  They were happily taking care of the garden, watering it and fertilizing it.  They visited with the animals and got to know each other better, too.  We don’t know exactly how much time elapsed between Genesis 1 and Genesis 3 .  It could have been hundreds of years of tranquility.  Enter the snake. The snake reminded them that they could not eat of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil:  “But the Lord God warned him, ‘You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden – except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die’ ” (Gen. 2?16-17).  The serpent questioned that command, twisted it (Gen. 3:1).  His words seduced the woman, possibly coiling around the tree as he hissed:  “You won’t die!…God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil” (Gen 3:4-5). Eve was convinced.  She took the apple first.  She wanted the wisdom the fruit would give her (3:6).  This point has been hammered home in numerous sermons I have heard over the years. “Eve was the gullible one, hence all women are gullible”.  “Men, you need to be the spiritual leaders in your family.”  “Adam should have said no and protected his wife and himself from sin.”  Yeah, yeah.  I don’t necessarily believe women are more impressionable than men are.  I’ve known plenty of trusting men.  What Eve did was wrong; what Adam did was wrong.  The Scripture clearly says “Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too” (3:6).  He was a witness to all that went on, though he said nothing.

If you continue to read through the Bible through the New Testament, you can see that God considered sin to have entered in through Adam, not Eve.  I don’t want to go into a discourse about headship and spiritual authority, but clearly according to God, the blame for the apple ingestion rested on Adam.  See Hosea 6:7:  “But like Adam, you broke my covenant and betrayed my trust”, and Romans 5:12:  “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world.  Adam’s sin brought death..”  There are many other verses saying essentially the same thing.  What is not mentioned is the incredible influence a wife’s opinion can have on her husband’s point of view.  Eve, trusting the serpent’s word over God’s, changed the course of human history.

But because Eve took and ate the apple, we need Jesus.  She started a chain reaction that continues to this day:  original sin.

So I think it’s sort of ironic that we have a day called Christmas Eve.  She started it all. I Timothy 2:14 says:  “And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan.  The woman was deceived, and sin was the result”.  It does not seem to matter as much about the deception as the action, the disobedience itself.

Maybe, just maybe, having a Christmas Eve is God’s way of forgiving Eve.  And Christmas is a beautiful holiday celebrating the birth of the savior of the world.  In the ironic twist that does God justice, Jesus is descended from Adam’s lineage, fully God and fully man.  Eve carried the seed of the Messiah inside her even then, before she ever committed the first sin.  The Lord took something awful and made it amazing, joyful, spectacular.  He redeemed us back to himself, using the very person who first betrayed him.

On this Christmas day, I consider the forgiving God who loves us all.  His salvation and peace remain.  “Don’t be afraid!  I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the City of David! … Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:  12, 14).

Eve of Christmas

I am very, very tired.  And excited.  And busy.  I am drinking another cup of coffee as I type this.

It’s Christmas Eve.  Just about everyone has something to do today.  I did notice that my bank is closed.  Guess they don’t have much to do there.

Yesterday afternoon after church, we drove down to Oregon to visit my stepmom’s family.  We haven’t been together since Ruby was a baby, probably about a year old.  She’s 7 now and Zac is 13.  My step-uncle’s wife died back in September.  She was a feisty, funny lady, and short like me.  She will be missed.  It seemed a good time to get together again and circle the wagons, get caught up on each other’s lives.  There were a LOT of little girls, ranging in age from 2 to 11.  My brother’s boys, 1 and 3, joined in the merriment.  Zac was at the other end of the spectrum.  He filled the testosterone void of boys his age by playing on his iPhone.  We ate food and talked and laughed.  I feel a little sad that I only met everyone when I was 13, and Dad married Patty.  I wished I’d grown up knowing my uncles better.

Because I was so tired, I did manage to put my foot in my mouth most handily a couple of times .  Uncle Mike, who is only a handful of years older than I am, made sure I didn’t forget it.  At least it was a great laugh, even if it was at my expense.  Then, mercifully, we drove back home.

I managed to do food shopping today, if you can believe that.  I saw two friends at the store; we chatted briefly.  We are now stocked up.  Shelton has a winter storm warning on, starting early tomorrow morning.  Now, the warning I got on my phone last night said we were in for 5-10 inches.  What it failed to mention is that the snow level will lower to 500 feet.

Our house is at an elevation of 23 feet.  Yeah.  I wonder if we’ll get any snow.

I got up before everyone else this morning to sneak a short run in.  I want to honor my commitment to run a mile every day until New Year’s.  I peeked outside at the pre-dawn morning. It was dry.  Sure, the sidewalks and streets and ground was damp.  But no precipitation fell from the sky. Up here, a dry day is a good day.  Nobody will wear shorts (except Zac), mind you, but people will celebrate in small ways, like walking instead of driving around town. I left my music at home and packed only myself and my watch out into the neighborhood.

The air hovered just above freezing.  It was very quiet, like a holy hush froze the air.  Christmas lights illuminated several houses, glowing like jewels in the early morning.  No two were the same.  As the time clicked past 7 a.m., the sky started to lighten in the east.  Loose-fitting clouds revealed the morning.  Suddenly, I could see.  I wondered if the morning Jesus was born was like this:  so very dark, and then suddenly – light!  I’d been so caught up in the joyful busy-ness of the Christmas program at church and logistics, baking, cards, cleaning, and on and on that I lost sight of the miracle of morning and  a new day.

I find myself thinking about the year that’s almost gone and just being grateful. I truly love living here in this place.  I still have so, so much to do.  I know all my readers who are parents – also some non-parents – can relate to this.  Yet for this moment, the calm before the storm – possibly literally – there is peace.