When You Try

I tried a new workout yesterday. I’m feeling it today. My triceps hurt. My calves are super tight. My right shoulder reminds me it’s still there. And oh, my back! I feel much closer to 75 years old today than I did before.

The instructor in the video, a tall, shapely woman in her late 20s, encouraged me to push.

“Change comes when you get uncomfortable,” she said right at me, looking into the camera lens.

I get it, lady. I really do.

I think God designed us this way. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. In my mind, the only way to get different results is to do it correctly for the first time, like running for 30 minutes without stopping, or playing that run note for note in what we like to call the right way.

flute music

There’s a big difference between practicing something to try to improve, and doing the same thing over and over again to check a box or fulfill a requirement. Some things demand more time and thought in order to improve. Some tasks just need to get done, like taking out the trash or paying a bill. I’m talking about learning a new skill. Learning something new requires effort and time. It takes perseverance, which like a muscle it needs to be built up. It means we focus every time we attempt. We learn as we go and we probably learn more when we mess up. It’s humbling and time consuming. But oh so worth it.

I had to remind myself yesterday, as I tried to flip a down dog position, that it’s okay to get uncomfortable. It’s okay to not have all the answers. It’s all right to fall down and fail as we try new things.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

You know what? That workout I did yesterday helped my right hip. I hurt it in 2012 and have tried myriad stretches to ease it back into place. It feels pretty good right now. In fact, I ran almost pain-free today. That, friends, is worth getting uncomfortable for. I’m going to do that workout again tomorrow. It can only get better from here.

 

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Shoulder It

Friday, I hurt my shoulder. It came on slowly. First, I felt a stiffening. Then a dull, throbbing pain. Then bending my arm hurt. Getting sweaters on and off became challenging. I could barely pull my clothes on. In fact, I did, but with great yelps of pain and tears. Note: you shouldn’t cry while pulling on your pants unless they’re truly ugly. Then, cry away.

I went in to the doctor on Saturday afternoon. He had me raise my left arm as high as I could. I made it halfway up. He tried to push it up.

“Ow!” I exclaimed.

He stopped. He looked concerned. Well, as concerned as he could look while wearing a mask. He had a cold.

“You could have arthritis or bursitis, or an impingement,” he said, eyes full of sympathy. He sent in a prescription for stronger pain medication than ibuprofen.

He sent me to get an X-ray. I wandered the hospital to find only the ER open. I thought, Oh boy. This could take awhile.

“It should be 5-30 minutes,” the attendant told me.

OK.

“Sharon? Sharon?” A female voice called out into the void of the waiting room.

I perked up my ears. I often get called Sharon.

“Sharon Ee-sham?”

I hopped up and followed the voice.

“That’s me, but I’m not Sharon. I’m Susan.”

The X-ray tech looked relieved to find me and chagrined at butchering my name.

“Sorry about that. Come on back.”

We wandered the labyrinth of hallways. Not a lot of foot traffic on Saturdays.

I took off all my metal items and stood in front of the target.

The tech lined me up.

“Turn. Back up one step. Turn a little more.” I felt like this was a professional photo session. “Tilt your chin up. Smile. Chin down. Stop punching your sister. Now!”

Anyway, I noticed something.

“Um, it’s my left shoulder I’m here for, not my right.”

“Oh man.”

Now she felt really dumb. She adjusted me into the mirror image of what I was supposed to be on the other side.

“Hold your breath. Okay. Let it out.”

I went home in pain and discouraged. I called the chiropractor’s office. They’re all out of the office until Wednesday. I left a message at another place. He can’t see me until next week.

But God.

Pretty much everyone in my immediate family has laid hands on me and prayed for me. I got prayer at church. I’ve prayed for myself. I’ve cried out to God, because I needed to go to work yesterday and wondered how in the world I would sit at my computer and type.  He has started the healing process, and I’m getting better each day. Jesus proves Himself faithful yet again.

That old song rings true.

I thought about how much we need our whole body to work together. I thought about my friends who live with constant, chronic pain, and had more compassion than before. I had no idea how much I relied on my left shoulder until I hurt it. Likewise, we need each other. I don’t have all the answers. But you might be able to shed light on my situation, give me a new perspective.

But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.  How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body.  The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” – 1 Corinthians 12:18-21

 

Everything Must Go

everythingmustgo

I’ve battled with shoulder and hip injuries for years now. If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you know this. Truly, I haven’t felt consistently 100 % since the 2012 marathon attempt. I don’t know about you guys, but I carry things around with me. I’m not talking about Kleenex and gum. I mean emotional baggage. I realized this morning that I don’t compartmentalize well. I forgive people, yet stuff stays with me. Like invisible baggage. Think of the residual black scummy gunk that clings to you like the leftover adhesive from an old sticker.

What I’m trying to say, and not very eloquently, is that I let some old junk go this morning. You can spin your wheels forever asking why circumstances turned the way they did, or you can move on. As I prayed about this stuff for the umpteenth time, I knew what I needed to do the Lord showed me. I can’t fix things. I’m not God and I never will be. Best for everyone, that.

My shoulder immediately stopped hurting. My hip, too. Guess where that stuff got stored? Right on this body. It’s like I couldn’t let go of the pain. Every time I dwelled on the past and tried to solve it, I created a comfy little nest for the aches to stay on my body, like much-loved parasites.  I’d wrestled with God about why I still hurt after chiropractor visits and massages. Nothing helped, at least not in a lasting fashion. Seems I needed to do my part.

I ran outside in the damp today, the air perfumed with thousands of flowers. A little mizzle fell on the sleeping town. I breathed it all in, grateful. Hey, what’s a little mizzle when you’re finally free? Will I come smack up against this issue again? Probably. The enemy knows my weaknesses. Also, I need to do a little stretching to get loose again. It might even try to revisit me again later today. But now I know what I’m up against. I’ll be ready.

And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony…Revelation 12:11

Agnes

The Public Works shop has a cat. I call her Agnes.

She’s a good cat, from what I can see. One of the guys (or maybe more) feeds her and waters her. She has a litter box. She lives in the insulation in an upper storage area over the extra street signs (who knew we had ’em?) and stop signs.

When I first saw her while getting a tour of the shop, the head mechanic told me, “She doesn’t like anybody.”

Curious, I called to her. She came right out, chirping a little. She let me pet her soft head. She purred and drooled. She pushed her round head into my hand. She doesn’t come down to floor level, at least not that I’ve seen. She hangs out on the heights. She traipses a support bar and spies when she hears people down on the garage floor. She’s like a furry yet wingless barn owl, stealth killer of invading rodents.

Agnes is just one of many surprises I’ve encountered down at the shop. I doubt she’ll ever let me pet her fully, or come down to my level. I call to her and try to lure her closer, but no dice. She’s got a feral edge to her that shines out of her orange eyes. She doesn’t trust us humans to treat her right due to bad past experiences.

She reminds me of some people I’ve met. People tell me, “I believe in God. But church is full of hypocrites.” Or “I’m a spiritual person. God and I are A-Okay.” Truly, often these statements mask a deep fear of rejection and pain. We got hurt before, and it stung. In fact, it stunk! Now we believe we can hold God and His people at arm’s length and He’s fine with it. Right? He’s not. He longs to hold you close and comfort you, and whisper His myriad good thoughts about you into your spirit.

I’d love to hold Agnes and pet her, feel her warm small body tucked into my arms. I would never hurt her.  I want to tell her, people do dumb things sometimes. We’re not all jerks. Keep giving out love and you will get it. People right here in this shop take care of you. Won’t you trust them?

Agnes feels safe up high, out of reach, though. She’d have to let down her guard to get the attention she craves. I see her head turn. Her eyes lock onto mine. She wants to come down. She won’t let herself take the risk of getting hurt again.

Will you?

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. –  Psalm 34:18

 

 

Hurts So Good

arnold & slyHappy Friday, everyone!

There’s a principle in body building that gets a lot of press.  You have to work the muscle, essentially tear it down from the inside, in order to strengthen it.  Your body was designed with amazing self-healing powers.  The workout that kills you actually does make you stronger.  Because you won’t die for real. Not today.  But you might ache all over.  Sitting could prove challenging; standing up makes you yelp out loud. Wearing your purse on your shoulder – either shoulder – causes you to rethink why you carry a purse at all.  And really, ladies, why *do* we? Sigh.

From bodybuilding.comResearch has shown that in order to increase muscle mass, stress must be put on the body, leading to increased hormone release, and increased flow of nutrients into the muscle, and with rest, muscles will grow.

So, the great thing about all of this is that as you continue to push yourself, you gain physical strength. You increase stamina as you run longer distances.  Your body acquires efficiency in utilizing oxygen. The heart reaps fabulous benefits from aerobic stress.  See, the human machine learns as it goes. It adapts to what we teach it.  It’s interdisciplinary at the cellular level.  Yet it’s little by little.  You don’t wake up one day and run a marathon.  Unless you’re Dean Karnazes. Just trust me, you’re not.

As I look at this minor running setback, I’m reminded that the potential for greater wholeness often comes out of breaking. It applies in the spiritual world as well.  God can make something new out of our brokenness. In fact, God shapes us all the time:  But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand – Isaiah 64:8. We learn as we go.  Sometimes, our entire paradigm changes. Hopefully, we gain wisdom and greater faith, line upon line, truth upon truth. In the vernacular, we “work smarter, not harder” due to knowledge gleaned from painful experience. I look forward to the good things the Lord will bring out of this season.

Embracing the Storms

A couple of weeks back, a guest speaker visited our church.  He spoke about the storms of life and how to embrace them.

“Every one of us is either going into a storm, in the middle of a storm, or just coming out of a storm,” he told us.

I’d never thought about it that way.  Some storms happen to us and some we bring on ourselves. He told us storms change us.  They become pivot points that change our direction and destiny.  When you enter a storm, know it will bring change somehow.

Yesterday, I found myself reliving some of my own personal storms.  Anyone who ever says Christians don’t experience regret is lying to you.  I’ve got plenty for things I’ve said and done. I’ve been brought to the end of myself more times than I can count.  What God brought to mind is that His plan has never been to destroy me or anyone else.  Not ever.  Storms reroute our lives.  They move us into a new direction and sometimes a new destiny.

Storm will pass…you’ll be ready for the next one…

The story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 shows this.  The younger son takes his inheritance and squanders it on wild living.  When he runs out of friends and money – right about the same time – he finds himself humbled.  He returns home to a father who jumps up and runs to him.  All is forgiven.  Now, the young man deserved some kind of consequences for his selfish behavior, right?  He brought that storm of hunger and deprivation on himself.

But that’s not God’s heart.  Even if we bring the pain onto ourselves, He will restore.  He will continue to bring good out of bad circumstances.  He wants to be connected to us, simply because He loves us. He understands our limitations and like a good father, lets consequences teach.

I would encourage you to embrace the storms in your life.  Don’t be afraid of change.  Let it come.  Learn from it.  Let consequences teach, if necessary. Today, I can say I’m grateful for the storms of life – unemployment, broken relationships, loneliness, physical pain – because the Lord brings good out of it all.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28

You Go Girl Half Marathon Recap

you go girlYesterday, I ran the You Go Girl Half Marathon in Tacoma. And I finished.  Let me sum up.

I signed up for this race back in the late spring.  I figured I’d have enough time to train for it, adding in Saturday long runs to increase distance.  I did 8 miles, 9 miles and so on, adding another mile each week.  My training runs, as you know, met with mixed results.  I hurt, and a lot.  Pain during and after these runs rated about a 6-8.  The last long run I did, which ended up being just shy of 12 miles, was on September 1.  Then I got a cold, which kicked my butt for most of the week.  I had to taper much earlier than I planned.

My last run Thursday before the race ended up being around 2 miles.  Due to jackhammer-like pain, I had to piecemeal it.  Enormously frustrated, I walked inside, head down.  That night, I’d had it.  How could I possibly run 13 miles in 3 days?!  I could barely run 2 back to back.

Mercifully, Jonathon suggested we pray.  At this point, I was angry.  I didn’t want to pray.  Perhaps you’ve felt this way.  Where was God during all this time?  I prayed on my own and with others several times during the past nearly 2 years on this very subject.

As we prayed, something came to mind:  the 2012 Portland Marathon.  That, friends, was my last long race.  If you recall, I made it to 18 miles before I bonked and had to drop out.  I made light of it and tried to move on, but the failure, after working so hard and trying and pushing, crippled me.  Literally.  The pain in my back that radiated down my right leg caused me to be able to only walk for a season. You’ll never know how many odd stretches and strengthening exercises I tried to relieve the pain. I improved over time but never reached full strength.  I didn’t even like running most of the time because of it. I internalized the failure and as I trained for yet another endurance run, my old inner vows haunted me. I hadn’t forgiven myself.  It appears I jammed the disappointment and self-hatred at scoring a DNF into my right rear pocket.  Nobody could see it, but boy, did I feel it!

I had to repent of believing I was a loser.  I had to confess I thought of myself as a failure, at least in this regard.  My body could only react to what my spirit told it. Believe me:  I know this sounds weird.  All I know is after I prayed and told God I was sorry for believing those lies, the healing began.  I felt the pain moving like a tingling down my back and out my leg.

The healing continued that night as I slept.  I could lie on my back again, where for nearly 2 years I’d had a golf ball-sized knot preventing me from any position but on my left side.  My right shoulder got healed, too, something I’d been seeing the chiropractor for for at least 4 years.  I was, and am, so very thankful to God.

Grateful and overwhelmed, I hit the start line on Sunday morning with only 2 thoughts:  be ferociously optimistic and go slow, taking it mile by mile.  Honestly, to be pain-free felt like a huge victory in itself.  I almost didn’t care about the race.  Almost.

The day dawned beautiful and cold at 36 degrees.  Mom, Jonathon and I made our way to Tacoma as the sun topped the tallest trees. Tacoma, situated on the Puget sound, reminds me of Portland.   We arrived at the start line and saw several hundred women – and a couple dozen men – waiting and chatting.  Most men wore pink, part of the deal allowing them to race.  Some took it a step further and wore tutus and pink compression socks.  Several non-running dads pushed little boys and girls in strollers as their wives pinned on bibs.

I spotted the 2:00, 2:10 and 2:20 pacers right off.  Ideally, I wanted to finish in 2 hours.  But since I hadn’t raced this distance in 2 years, I figured I better just aim to finish.

The race had several downhill parts, the tall buildings providing welcome shade. We did a mile loop on a gravel path in a darling local park.  Jonathon and Mom waved to me from there.The first six miles went by pretty quickly.  I kept around my normal pace and focused on relaxing and looking at the scenery along the way. I thanked God for cool breezes and getting to be outside. This in itself felt miraculous.

Since the race was supposed to be all women, I’d hoped to find camaraderie on the course.  I did.  As I crested the first overpass down by the waterfront, I chatted with two gals in purple tank tops on my left.

“Why can’t it end here?” I asked, looking out at the peaceful Pacific, dreamy blue in the morning light.  Boats large and small pushed through the inviting water.  The panoramic view encouraged my decision to walk a minute and breathe it all in.

“Oh, don’t worry, ” said the redhead, her hair back in a French braid under her visor.  “It’s pretty flat from here.”

And it was.  Flat and long.  The stretch to the turnaround proved to be endless.  The trouble with turnarounds is that someone is always already on their way back while you continue to soldier on in pursuit of the end of the loop. I kept looking, and looking.  Orange safety cones stretched on an endless asphalt horizon.  Where *was* the blasted thing?!  Wait a minute.  What if I turned around now?  I could just skip over to the other side of the cones and turn towards the finish.  Who would know?  Bad Susan! I had to hold myself by the scruff of the neck to stay on the straight and narrow.  Sigh.

At last I reached the turnaround.  The final 3 miles stretched on and on, sun-drenched and dazzling.  I had to walk more here as my stamina gave out.  I chose to stay encouraged and enjoy the day anyway.

The two gals in purple passed me at mile 11.

“Let’s go, Shelton!” the brunette cheered. It lifted my heart.

After running for a while by my lonesome, I caught up with a tall gal in blue, dark hair back in a ponytail.

“Hey, good job!” she said to me.  Truly, we ladies encouraged each other all along the course.  Shouts of, “You can do it!” and “Way to go, ladies!” chorused out across the miles. We were all in this together, win or lose, anyway. No multitasking here.

“And to you! Hey, I’m getting hungry,” I said.  My stomach growled its assent.

“Me, too,” she said, a small grimace creasing her face.  “But we’re almost there.”

Soon after, she took off.  We caught up again later.  By that time, we needed to crest one more overpass, run over the top and then down to the finish.

As I spiraled down the ramp, I saw the finish line, inflatable and unmistakable.

“It’s mine!” I said and sped up.  Grinning like an idiot, I made it in just under 2:20.  Not bad for an old broad.  I ran into both the purple-clad ladies, thanking them for their friendliness, and the blue gal.

“I haven’t run a half marathon in 13 years,” the pony-tailed Amazon told me between sips of water.  Wow.  Impressed,I congratulated her.

I had no idea when I signed up for this race all that would occur. Why didn’t God heal me sooner?  I don’t know. Maybe I wasn’t ready to admit my own powerlessness and sinful thinking until earlier last week. I’m just glad He healed me. I have a comeback story of my own. Today, I’m a little stiff but nothing too serious.This pain, birthed out of extra exertion, will subside. Thanks be to God! His love endures forever.

But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears. – Psalm 18:6