Life, Faith & Running
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
Do you like writing? Love writing? Or maybe, you hate writing!
It is quite obvious that I write (a lot), therefore it could be assumed that I love writing. Which is mostly true.
But the response I get when I say I love writing, isn't all that different from the one I receive when I say I love running. Often times people are baffled as to why an intense, aerobically challenging activity like running would be considered enjoyable. And I get it. Running is hard. Running is work. Sometimes I don't love getting ready to go running. Sometimes I look at the rain falling and think, I don't really need to go out today. I can wait until tomorrow. Sometimes I am huffing and puffing and feeling on the verge of a heart-attack for the first mile or two (Usually on those days I run with my 7:25 mile/per minute paced friend who doesn't know how to take running lightly--ever!). Sometimes I have aches and pains and mental road blocks that keep me from running my best. But none of those have stopped me from running or loving running because I have seen the results to be positive over, and over, and over again. I have been running distance since seventh grade. I was the only junior-higher naive enough to allow my coaches words of affirmation propel me to competing in the two-mile at varsity meets. In my not-so-epic first two-miler both my shoes came untied, and I am certain I was lapped by someone. Upon feeling like vomiting at the finish line, I was pretty sure I never wanted to run 8 laps around a track ever again.
However, there was one thing that out-weighed all of those negative physical effects of that experience that kept me coming back for more. When you run 8 laps there is a lot of time for people to cheer for you! (And a lot of people who think you are crazy for running for that long cheering just because they have nothing else to do for the next 15 minutes.) To this day my most distinct memory from the beginning of my running years was the day I ran my first two-miler. Not because I almost died tripping over my own untied shoelaces. But because as I ran my teammates who spanned the grades of 9-12, clamored around the track yelling and cheering me to the finish. Those 8 laps gave them plenty of time to come up with what would be my nickname for the rest of the season. And aren't you dyeing to know what that name was?
On that day, "Jaci the jaguar" was born. On that day I solidified my identity on a team and I gained entry into a a type of calling--the calling to be the only junior-higher crazy and desperate enough to be on varsity that she would run the longest race available (because no one else wanted to do it). On that day I also began a flirtation with running that would grow into love over the course of thousands or miles on paths in various cities and around the world. But was it wasn't really the running I was falling for, it was the result of the running. Over the course of my running career some results have change (I am no longer contending for medals or ribbons--thank you Jesus) but other results have remained the same. Mainly, the clarity of mind I find when I come back from a long run alone (with my music and my prayers) and the depth of conversation I come to when I run with a friend. There isn't much else to do but talk while you run and when you log an hour with a friend you can really work through a lot of topics. Honestly, I rarely think about how running aids my physical body because through the years I have found that the least motivating consideration when trying to talk myself out of the door. So, running is enjoyable to me not because I love having really ugly toenails that are constantly falling off or falling apart, or because I love sweating like a a brick-layer on a 85 degree day. I love running because I have experienced the positive results it has on my mind and my relationships. That's what gets me out the door. (That and that fact that when I turned 33 I made a pact with myself to run 33 minutes 5 days a week--Yes, I need some specific goals to keep me going just like the rest to the population!)
So, what does all of this have to do with writing?
Running is hard! Writing is hard! Formulating thoughts and sentences that mean what you want them to is a very, very challenging mental exercise. I have a degree to teach others how to write and I still struggle to use words, grammar and structure properly. But like running, writing provides results, that once you have experienced them, can increase your motivation and momentum to keep pressing on in them because the results are worth it.
And what might the results look like?
Over the course of the last 6 months, after a very long hiatus (close to 7 years), I returned to my practice of writing. Prior to my return I felt like my heart and faith were dormant, hibernating in the muck of a frozen pond. Through transitioning from one country to another, adding children to our family, changing jobs, and attempting to figure out God's calling on my life, my default mode was to just coast--Not taking time to feel or reflect deeply. But things changed when I was blessed by my husband taking the morning routine with the kids (solo) once a week, allowing me 2-3 hours away to work and get back to time with my long lost friend, reflective-writing. Having this time first-thing in the morning and for an extended period of time allowed me to examine where I am. Who God is. Why God is. Who I am to be in the world.
Much of my reflection is birthed from the daily readings and commentary found at IF:Equip.com. Starting with the Bible passages and commentary found there allowed the Word to begin to be living and active in my life again. I have noticed that when I take the time weekly (Daily would be nice, but after years of sleep deprivation and mid-night care-taking, I am still working on getting out of bed before my kids!) my understanding of myself, my God and my relationships deepens. Because in reflective-writing I can recognize and begin to articulate where my thoughts are, where they have been, and where they should be headed. Writing down my thoughts forces me to actually process the Bible and my heart's health level. None of which is all that easy, nor do I always like what I see in myself. But the results are worth it, because the process has brought me out of a desert and into a rainforest (More on that metaphor in a future blog.).
I know writing isn't for everyone, but I would challenge you to try it. It isn't about eloquence or presentation, but about sitting yourself down long enough to process God's word. Or your questions. Or your frustrations. Or a situation in which you are in need of wisdom or peace. In writing, I discover thoughts I didn't know existed inside my head. I uncover nuances and formulate questions about life when I really take the time to put distractions away and write what is on my mind and heart. Not for an audience, but because I know the process is an engine powering my heart and Spirit forward.
In today's IF:Equip reading (Matthew 5:13-16) and commentary (by Margaret Feinberg & Trisha Davis) the question was posed, Who is one person that you can reflect the light of Jesus to this day? Had I not taken the time to write and reflect on the previous day's passage I likely wouldn't have come to the following answer.
Just the day before, I had written about what a spiritual blessing it is to me that I am given a few hours every Thursday morning to spend on my own, reflecting, reading and doing work away from home and in close proximity to coffee beans. My husband and I had agreed on this arrangement while I was working on my master's and teaching online. When those wrapped-up I requested that the tradition continue so that I could still make room in my life for writing and reflecting early in the morning. To which we both agreed. And then last night my husband suggested that maybe we discontinue this so that he could get a swim in on Thursday mornings.
This was hard for me to navigate because I didn't want to be selfish, but I had literally just written about the powerful impact my Thursday mornings were having on my life. What? How could this be happening within hours of each other. We discussed the options but didn't come to a conclusion before he had to leave for a Youth Group event, so it was just kind of sitting there all night. Then before bed he told me he was okay with me having my Thursday morning Caribou date with myself. Which I was pretty excited about.
As I left this morning I felt like I was supposed to take some of my morning to write in a journal I keep that is written only to my husband. I don't write in it nearly as much as I should, but when I feel like we are going through an especially hard time or are struggling to come to a concensus on a decision, I take time to put my reflections and questions in this journal to make sure I am including him in my thoughts, encouraging him and allowing myself to really voice that I want to live-out a unified, submissive to one another marriage. So, I grabbed the journal and left. When I opened up the reading for today (May 14, 2015) and saw the question, I knew that God was showing me that the person I needed to reflect the light of Jesus to today was my husband. Via a reflective and encouraging journal entry. I will write more about that process in my next post, but I wanted to introduce it in this post to show writing has practical applications to my walk with Jesus and my marriage. Taking time to write reflections can lead me to being more aware of what is going on around me and the Spirit can use this awareness to guide me in my actions.
Writing is hard. Running is hard. Living for Jesus is hard. But you aren't alone, someone is watching and cheering for you as you run your 8 laps--giving you strength and power to finish strong. And He has given you some awesome nicknames like, Confidence, Joyfulness, Overcoming One, Faithfulness, Friend of God, One Who Seeks My Face.... And we know the results are worth it. When we take some time to do the hard things often the results will remain fresh in our minds to propel us to keep pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippins 3:14). And that is the goal of it all--running, writing, reflecting, and taking action on those things--to live to into a calling not understood by this world. One that brings the glory to our Father in heaven, while allowing His light to shine among men that they might see Him.
Her family and friends know her as, Jaci. She is the wife of a pastor, a mom of four, writing and communications education instructor, a visionary and an avid runner. As a firm believer in the power and effectiveness of the body of Christ united together to live out the Great Commission, she holds fast to this verse, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Of equal importance to her are these words, "...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).
Posts in the Run for Your Life, series: