Type A-

Mt. RainierThe view from our living room.

I’ve been called Type A by those who know me well. I guess, on the surface, it looks that way. I’ve barely deviated from my morning routine, except starting it a little later. I’m getting up between 5 and 5:30 a.m. instead of 4 or 4:30. I read my Bible segment for the day. I pray. Sometimes I sing a little, but not too loudly because everyone else slumbers on. I check email and Facebook. I work out with kettlebells or go running, then clean up and get going on the day’s tasks.

I like routines. I like structure. But I like it to have a purpose. Right now, it simply doesn’t. I’m looking ahead most of the time. What do I need to do later today, or tomorrow? I’m rarely fully in the moment that surrounds me.

I was praying about this very thing the other day. What’s next, God? Where am I headed? I didn’t hear anything. To be completely honest, sometimes the answer doesn’t straightaway. Guidance comes in the form of nudges, a subtle suggestion of sorts. If I heed them – whether that be while I’m leading worship, or just talking to a friend – they get clearer. If I don’t, well, they’ll probably come up again. It’ll just take longer to get where I’m supposed to go. God is merciful and patient.

It seems this is a lesson I have to relearn. I’ve gone around this mountain many times before. It all comes back to surrender. It’s finding the beauty in the now. We’re all still living in the house, my parents and our immediate family. God knows my dad and stepmom need their own place. It’s been 4 months. But you know what? This time won’t come again, where we’re this close, in each other’s business, rubbing each other wrong sometimes and figuring out what truly blesses each other. None of us are perfect yet we can love and communicate better. God knows that, too.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 

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July Thanksgiving

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I ran 3 miles out in the cool the other day. It had rained the night before, so the air blew fresh on me. The moon played peekaboo with the thick, shifting clouds. I felt good, despite a full workout at kettlebells the night before. I moved along, strong but loose. I could have run forever.

My mind, ever agile, strayed ahead to work and the weekend. I couldn’t keep thinking about nothing, could I?! I find it hard to stay in the moment. I’m always in the next moment, or the one after that. Or even into next week. Mindfulness, or being in the moment, they call it. I lack it. We talk about it writer’s group all the time. It all comes down to enjoying where you are and when you are.

I think Paul nailed it when he said:

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:11-13

I’m still learning to be present. However, I’m almost always grateful for mornings. I’m glad about new beginnings every day. I’m content with and celebrate the numerous blessings of this life.

End of an Era

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Last night, our kettlebells instructor, Helga to you, taught her last class.

“Hi everyone. I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, and I’m quitting.”

She set her bag down and explained. She told us about the near-constant searing pain in her shoulder. She’s battled it off and on for the last 2 years. She’s had massages, chiropractor treatments and cortisone shots. She’s had X-rays, too. Nothing seems to totally get rid of it, save possibly complete rest. She got a full-time job a few months back. Making it in to teach night class has become increasingly difficult as well.  She’s taught for 6 years.

While out on a run this morning, I thought back over the classes I attended. I remembered learning how to swing correctly. Trust me, that took more than a year. Morning classes I didn’t bother to put on makeup, except for maybe lipgloss or lipstick.  After breakfast and coffee, I threw on clean workout clothes and drove up the hill to the gym. Over time, I acquired callouses. They peeled. Sometimes they bled. I got bruises on my forearms and sometimes my legs, if I knocked myself with a bell. I took on larger weights as I mastered an exercise. Sweat ran into my eyes. We did innumerable jump squats, reaching for the sky like frogs on steroids. I found muscles I didn’t know I had. We passed large balls from outstretched legs to outstretched arms, like a band of Cirque du Soleil rejects. All of this set to the lilting background music of Ozzie, AC/DC and Guns N Roses.

And I loved every minute of it.

For now, us merry few who are regulars will take turns teaching the class. But it won’t be the same. Each of us came face to face with the limits of our inner resilience under her instruction. We pushed past them and found new levels to play on.

“You know,” Helga said to me with a smile as we stretched out at the close of class, “you guys are the reason I kept coming back.”

She’s the reason we kept coming back. She made us feel like we could take on the world. Thanks for everything. So long, sensei.

 

 

 

 

 

Run Through

I ran 4 miles this morning. Probably not a big deal to most people, but it is to me. I haven’t run that distance in a long time. At least, not continuously. I’m trying to get my base miles up. This streak is supposed to help with that. Theoretically.

I got to bed late last night and I wondered if I could even get up to do four miles. But I decided to do it. I talk a lot about the power of the mind. I need to preach to myself more! I hold myself back more than I should. I cringe at the thought of getting hurt again. I don’t believe in myself like I should. I find it easier to believe in other people and encourage them than to apply it to myself.

So while on the run, I started doing it. I remembered funny things the kids did and I smiled. I reminded myself I’ve run this same route dozens of times and that it was in me to do it again. I watched the marvelous mackerel sky, clouds lit with silver tips as the sun rose. I thought back to last night’s kettlebell class. We did the 10-10-10 series 3 times, after we did the cycle of two-handed swings and figure 8s three times for 45 seconds each. The 10-10-10 series consists of 10 one-armed swings, 10 cleans and 10 high pulls all on one side. Then you switch to the other side. Somewhere in there, my grip started to go. My forearm felt like one long numb lump. One of the calluses on my right hand broke open and oozed clear fluid. Kinda icky, yet better than blood. But I kept on. I’m an athletic girl, er…woman. I need to push myself or most of the time workouts feels worthless. I know this and I’m learning to work with it instead of pushing it down. I finished the run in good time, sweaty and satisfied that I gave my all.

This week has been a continuous battle with discouragement in several areas. I know where it’s coming from, and why, so I stayed the course. I got into my Bible. I prayed more and sang more. Because God stays the same. Every day. Every minute. Every hour. Circumstances in this life don’t change His goodness or His mercy. Not even a little bit. I’m learning to say the right words, even as the Lord said them over me ages ago.

Seventeen Days

seventeen magazine(source)

Nothing to do with the magazine.

I’m seventeen days into the running streak. I’ve got 19 days to go. Almost halfway. Truth be told, I’d like to continue it while on our vacation. The vacation goes from June 30 to July 15. I think it would help me be nice (ha!) while far away from home, familiar and control of circumstances.

I did not want to get up today. My body pleaded, “You don’t need to run. Sleeping is good. We did kettlebells last night. Remember? We did the card workout. Our legs already hurt. We’re middle-aged, after all. And let’s not even talk about our back…”

But,  I remembered this: I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. – 1 Corinthians 9:27.

I got up. I turned off the “I can’ts”. Just one mile, I coaxed myself. Start there and see what happens. I ran three very ugly miles. Box checked. Yes, I still think checked boxes are sexy. Don’t hate me.

Discipline gets a bad rap. Every action, friends, starts in the mind. The Bible has lots to say about the battlefield of the mind. 2 Corinthians 10:5 (taking thoughts captive), Romans 12:2 (renewing our minds), and one of my personal favorites, Philippians 4:8: And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 

It’s taken me awhile to realize the correlation between thoughts and actions. Okay, it’s all over the Bible, and in the news daily, but I didn’t want to believe it. I don’t think I wanted to be held responsible for the way my thoughts repurposed themselves as deeds. I tried to dodge that particular, ahem, discipline. I mean, I’m an American, right? Don’t fence me in. I love my freedom of speech, religion, right to assemble peaceably. Let’s not forget the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those few tenets form the backbone of the gospel of the U.S. of A, I find.

No one else can reign in my thoughts. That’s my job. One of the great benefits of us as free will creatures is the amazing complexity and beauty of our thoughts. As humans, we carry within us the God-given ability to dream and create amazing things. Yet with all the darling schemes we conjure up, some still prove to be stinkers. Let’s yank the ugly thoughts out. They will only yield pain and disappointment to us and those around us. Let’s cultivate a discipline of good thoughts. They will yield a crop of encouraging words, healthy actions and a fruitful life.

 

 

 

Three Mile Morning

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I ran today. The sun hadn’t stepped onstage yet, the eastern sky a pale blue. Candy-colored clouds dotted the skyline. The air was still.

I headed up the hill, separated from the traffic by a concrete median. Good thing, too, because my pants kept falling down. I even had them on right side out. Thanks for asking. But somehow I’d forgotten to tie them. Even then, they didn’t want to stay up, drifting down as if pulled by some super gravity. Had to tuck my shirt in. The adjustments delayed but didn’t stop me.

Funny, I kept waiting for the pain to kick in. Come on, I thought. Where are you, my old enemy? I’m waiting. I’m hunting you. A slight ache in my right shoulder remained, the only remnant from last night’s weighted squat with presses as well as the cleans of kettlebell class. My footfalls mounted the incline. I walked a little and admired the sweet morning, daisy faces shining at me from the roadside. I felt a slight twinge in my left foot. Nope. Keep moving.

The pain never found me. Somehow, by the grace of God, I’d outrun it. I couldn’t stop smiling. Now, my endurance is another story. But I can work on that. I know the drill. I will put in the time.

But forget all that—
    it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland…” – Isaiah 43:18-19

Kettlebell Evangelist

kettlebellsLast week, I attended my first kettlebells class in, oh, 10 months or more.

The class itself incorporated exercise balls, passing the ball back and forth between feet and hands while lying on our backs. Ouch. Oh, and I can’t forget get-ups, five on each side. I wobbled on weak legs for the last one.

One of the class regulars said, “This is all your fault, Susan. We haven’t worked out like this in months.”

I had to grin. I knew it to be true as sweat dripped off me. I was sore for several days afterwards. Welcome to the jungle, we’ve got fun and games…

Going back to work in 2015 put the kibosh on morning classes. They got cancelled, anyway, due to low attendance. Night classes, right after work, tugged at my heart. I wanted to spend that time with my family. It seemed indulgent, driving up to the gym instead of going right home after the 8-hour slog.

But now, something’s changed. Things have settled down at home. And I need more fun in my life. You might argue sweating to 80s metal rock while swinging a heavy cast iron cannonball with handles sounds more like a torture technique. Well, yes, there’s an element of that. Yet pushing to the outer limits of my strength and stamina brings a great rush of joy. You could claim endorphins. Sure. I don’t deny that. Endorphins keep us coming back for more.

I think it’s more, though.  For me, chasing excellence in any form fuels my spirit. I don’t ever want to settle for good enough. I’d like to see what else I can do. I want to feel my best every day, strong and happy. That said, I’ll never be the skinniest girl. I like food. Probably won’t be the fastest or strongest, either. But I can be the best me, with energy and joy enough to go around. So call me a kettlebell evangelist. Moving your body can change your mindset. Come one, come all, to the house of sweat and pain. You’ll uncover a better attitude as you transform your body.