Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Living the Dream

I didn't intend to be a runner.

And I'm not sure if an outsider would look at me and say, "yeah, she's a runner." 

Many runners have that svelt look, where muscles are etched out beneath skin stretched tightly across, revealing the architecture of a beautifully chiseled body.  That is not me.  I may run regularly, but I don't eat the way that gets that look going.  And I was tempted this swimsuit season to get a two piece.  But after trying a few on I found that rarely do they cover vertical C-section scars.  Mostly I run because it is prayer, it is joy, it is therapy, it is the thing that connects me in a positive way to the body I've always struggled with.

But it wasn't until yesterday that I understood the gift this running thing has become.

I started running about the time my husband and I started trying to have children.  The road to motherhood has been hard.  It did not happen for us the way we thought it would.  It took years to finally get pregnant.  Once we were able to have kids, the timing of it all put me in the A.M.A. club:  advanced maternal age.  I remember having a conversation with my husband about running when our children were very small.  I remember saying that I wanted to be physically active enough to enjoy my children, to be able to keep up with them as they got older.  I didn't want my age to keep me from living fully into their lives, sharing it the way I longed to do.

We had that conversation years ago.  I had forgotten about it.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday I woke to a body that decided a walking workout on the treadmill might be better than a run.  Because the whole day before I spent in the gym playing with my kids.  With Noah, my oldest, I played basketball, trying like crazy to make baskets, trying to keep him from doing the same.  My shot isn't as good as his, but I put up a pretty good defense.  Isaiah wanted me to run with him.  We ran around the gym's upstairs track.  He is fast.  But he's not used to running long distances.  Eventually we were able to run side by side, my endurance keeping me close enough to him so that we could experience running--together.  And my littlest boy, he just wants to kick a ball together.  Which translates:  I kick it to him; he kicks it in a different direction that sends me racing to stop it so it doesn't wind up in a teenager's pickup game. 

Here's the thing:  in all that activity, I was able to stay right with my boys.

Yesterday I realized that a years ago prayer had been answered.

The temptation is to take it all for granted.

When we send the prayers up, I have noticed that over time we tend to forget the prayers we pray.  It is Heaven's mercy, because sometimes the answers take a while to come.  Yet when the answer to a long held prayer comes, we can't help but feel joyful.  As I was running this morning I kept pondering these glorious answers to my running prayers, remembering lyrics to the Disney song:  "A dream is a wish your heart makes . . ."  This dream has come true.  It is a beautiful, sweet dream, that must be savored in the moment, that must be lived with robust attention and gratitude.  Because these boys are fast, and who knows how long I will be able to keep up with them.  Who knows how long they will even want me to.

The temptation is to put these fulfilled dreams on hold while I focus on working other dreams.

There are other things I believe I was made for.  But I forget that the most important thing I was made for is the Grace of this present moment.  Once the moment is gone, the Grace for it is gone too.  I don't want to run past it chasing what will come next.  I so want to receive this Grace now.  In all of its dizzying fullness. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Frame Matters

Have you ever noticed the way a picture frame can change how you see the picture it holds?

I've noticed this.  Sometimes I'll think a picture has no hope.  There is no way I can display it because it just isn't fancy enough, or it just doesn't look right with the decor.

But then I will find the perfect frame, and all the pieces seem to fit.  What once looked out of place now looks right at home.

With the right frame, things work. I notice something that was always there, but had escaped my attention. With the right frame, that tense thing inside of me holding its breath relaxes, and every part of my being exhales a big "ahhhh."

Frames matter to pictures.  Our frame of mind, frame of heart, frame of spirit, matters more.

How we see the world changes the world we see.

It may not be what you want to hear, yet I have witnessed this truth in my own life and in the lives of others time and time again.

One of the most powerful times I have experienced this was during the last year I served my first church.  I was young, only three years out of seminary, serving a large congregation as associate pastor.  The church was in turmoil under the senior pastor's leadership.  Friendships I had cherished had been painfully interrupted.  Dreams of sailing through ordination had been deferred.  It was a time of brokenness, pungent with pain and disappointment. 

During that season I was also fulfilling a contingency for ordination, seeing a counselor.  With all the upheaval going on, this requirement became more of a blessing.  I began to see how years of unresolved heartache were coloring my present perceptions.  As I found the courage to release the pain of the past, my present found new meaning.  I remember sharing with my counselor that I felt like the sun was rising on a new morning in my life.

That perception was a gift from God. 

I'm so thankful for it.  I'm so thankful for the Grace He gave to see that specific time period His way.  The truth was that in those desperate, lonely times, He was preparing me for a new life, a new ministry, new Hope that my physical eyes could not yet see, but my spiritual eyes were beginning to perceive.  I could have ignored, denied, discounted, or in all other sorts of ways deminished the truth God was showing me about the life I was living.  And in doing that I could have missed the opportunity born from the ashes of an old dream dying.

It is a hard truth to hear sometimes.  Because the world we live in is not always hospitable.  Because sometimes the days are dark.  Sometimes everything within us wants to run away and hide.  But I know that the only perspective we need is the only one that really matters:  Heaven's. 

I have seen persons who have suffered immeasurably have the faith to trust God in true ugliness.  Circumstances that take the breath away.  Their faith, their decision to act as if God is everything He says He is, made a difference in the outcome of their circumstances.  In the face of tragic loss, unspeakable abuse, I have seen these courageous persons not allow their feelings to rule their hearts.  Instead they have allowed God's tender grace space to live within their hearts, regardless of how ragged or broken they were.  These souls are my heroes.  They inspire me to hold on.  They challenge me to not allow the details of my circumstances to blind me to the Presence of Grace surrounding me.

This is the frame we most need:  the one that holds unswervingly to Truth, that seeks it at all costs, and believes it beyond the feeling of the moment.  This is the frame that changes the picture we see.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Making Summer Beautiful

Phineas and Ferb's song is playing in my heart and mind:
"It's summer, and where do I begin?"
I'm afraid I will spend so much time trying to answer the question that summer will slip through my hands, and I will be left with emptiness where I longed to have joy-filled memories.
I want to write my summer story with beauty, full of grace, laughter, fun.  I want to make memories that will etch themselves into my children's minds, recalled twenty years from now around the gathered family table as "remember that summer that we . . . ."
Oh I want them to remember. 
And I want this time to be filled with things worth remembering.
Maybe this figuring out the summer doesn't have to be all that complicated.  Maybe I don't need to be a crazy fanatic mom that schedules every moment.  Maybe I can keep it simple.  Maybe I can have a plan that's attainable, that doesn't get in the way of actually doing something worthwhile.  Maybe that can be my plan--every day do something worthwhile.
Maybe it's as simple as being available to the worthwhile thing that knocks on my door.
Last weekend my neighbor rang the doorbell with this package of crayola sidewalk paint in her hands.  She said she was cleaning things out in her house and thought the boys might be interested in having it.  We agreed.
Monday afternoon we set to work.  Jeremiah and Isaiah joined me outside.  We dipped and poured and dabbled.  We created.  I have to admit, it was fun for me too.  What I discovered was that the best pictures were made as we worked together. 
 I made the outlines.  Butterfly, check.  Cross, check.
The boys filled in the pictures, using their imaginations to bring sketches to life.
Isaiah thought the pictures needed to be connected.  He used his brush to connect them.  I love how Jeremiah's blue doodles on the pink and yellow cross looks like a flower. Surprises everywhere.

When Isaiah got to the cross, he decided to make another one, so that the first one wouldn't feel alone.

What I learned is that it's not so important what we do this summer, as long as we do it together, making sure I leave room for those boys to teach me, as much as I want to imprint a life worth living on them.

Maybe the imprint that matters most of all is seeing the moments we share as gift, enjoying each one:  entering into the Joy of the One who gives them all.