Personal Best

I ran the Turkey Trot 5-miler last Thursday. I headed down to South Congress and joined 23,000 other trotters along with my favorite running buddy, Elaine. The starting line was at the far end of the bridge and it took us 20 minutes to cross it once the gun was blown. For whatever reason, we signed up to run untimed, so I had zero jitters, confident that the whole thing was just for fun.

Or so I thought. Two other gals joined us at the last minute and we spent the first two miles trying not to lose each other. The four of us weaved through the streets of downtown Austin, dodging jogging strollers and bouncing turkey costumes.

But when I peeked back over my shoulder after the second mile, I didn’t see my friends. I gave a few honest efforts to find them and then I kicked it into gear. I was on my own and feeling great. I thought, “Let’s see what this body can do!”

I pushed it. I haven’t run that hard since I was in 10th grade. Miles 3 and 4 were encouraging because I constantly passed people up and not one soul passed me. The fifth mile was a like a dream. Music blared behind me as I dug deep for the best kick I can ever remember having and I busted through the finish line feeling like an Olympian in the zone.

I can’t tell you my time, because I don’t run with a watch and I didn’t have a time chip in my bib. And, even though I imagined my husband and son cheering me on from the sidelines, there was no one there to see me accomplish this great feat. But, I wonder, does someone have to see it happen for it to actually count? Whom do I really have to impress?

This was the best run of my life because I had nothing riding on it. No one cared that I was there, I’d only given it a few thoughts beforehand and I wasn’t worth any more as a person because I tore it up out there. For so many years, I thought running far and fast would make me loveable. It never did; running can’t hold that much power. For the first time in my life, I am running because I enjoy it. I’ve never felt so certain that I was born to run as when I leaned into that final turn. God made me fast and, Chariots of Fire-style, I feel God’s pleasure when I run –that day more than any other, which makes it my personal best.

Mobilization

He crawls now. He went from a frustrated non-mover to a speed demon in under a week. He darts from the back door to the front in record speed and as I watch his thighs jiggle and skim the rug, I know it.

I don’t want to admit it, but I know it. He’s already breaking away. My baby is growing up. Sure, he still needs me to feed him and change him, but now he can get around without my help. And it is a constant reminder that I’m only entrusted with this little gem for about 17 more years and then, for better or worse, he will be a man of his own out in the world. Hello child-rearing!

 

My 2009 Fairy Tale Ending (that was really the beginning)

Once upon a time, there was a female Austinite. She forsook the truth in search of the illusory fountain of health – the one packaged precisely for ailing, hungry people like her – in search of a miracle. Enzymes, Superfoods, Nutrients, the picture of perfect health, a body that disease flees from, and the hope of an endless cascade of energy that would afford her a secret monopoly on achievement: all of this was beautifully packaged and she bought it.

She wanted so badly to please the Lord, but she had great sorrow because her heart longed for perfection. She wanted to please God through the food she ate. She confused the Creator and the created. Delighting in the juice of a farmer’s market peach dripping down her cheek, she bought into the lie that the peach was an end.

But it tasted right. This had to be the truth. And so she embarked on a journey; a long, arduous quest for health and perfection, believing deeply that this quest and her actions pleased the Lord. She lived in fear of bad ingredients, allowing only the finest morsels to enter her body. Sugar, flour, wheat and alcohol in all forms were cast out, even her toothpaste had to pass the test (sorry gum and mints, you’re out too). Every crumb, she weighed and measured. The rooms she frequented told her that the cup and scale kept her honest, that if she used them she would never have to step on a scale again. And, thus, a soul-starved girl made her own religion. And, at least for a while, it worked.

And then, because asceticism and harsh treatment of the body know no end, her spiritual forays bled into the world of purism. She stepped into a new land, and even though it looked a bit like her old land, there was a new language (clean vegan, locavore, 80/10/10 raw vegan, fruitarian) with new enemies (Big Dairy, Pharmaceuticals, M.D.s). If she’d found any freedom in her cup and scale, she’d lost it all over again.

The altar of health was constructed and bowing down never felt so good. Austin Girl had finally met her healer: raw fruits and vegetables, abundant life via food. Or so she thought. But the more she adapted to this new land, the greedier for nutrients she became and the more she noticed a strange reaction: she couldn’t stop bowing at this altar. She’d bought it, all right. But she paid too much and started looking for her receipt, hoping –just maybe–she could return it.

But, before she knew it, she was a native. She couldn’t un-know all she’d learned. She was stuck, a life-sentence for sure. She heard the normies in their white coats say, “Just eat everything in moderation.” She rolled her eyes and thought, “Oh, sure, so high fructose corn syrup can moderately eat away at my organs. No thanks.” She did not, could not, buy that this whole thing was psychological or that these were elementary principles of this world.

She prayed for the death penalty. It came, but not in the way she wanted it to. Everything had to die so she could live. And Lady Austin finally confessed that she’d sought restoration apart from the only One who can truly give it. Stepping back from the mounds of library books and websites offering her the world from a mountaintop, which offered not life, but merely words on a page, she confessed her aimless wanderings through the produce aisle in search of salvation when she already knew it wasn’t found there. She confessed her idol worship at the altar of longevity and natural medicine and looked down at her hands –the ones that desperately reaching in every direction for something that can’t come from a raw foods guru, but only from within. The living foods lie came up empty and dead every time –like Austin Girl when she tried to fill herself with it.

Capital of Texas Gal died. And her death was deeper than living foods could resurrect.

With her hands battered from rope burn, she clasped them together in her grave. When she opened her eyes, she found herself sitting before the banqueting table of disorder she’d made. She entwined her fingers to pray –pray to the only one who could redeem such a mess.

And Life’s Great Scrap Artist came.

This girl –the one who made a cage her home –lived happily ever after because listened. She plugged her ears and only listened to One. And He spoke. The one who drank wine and ate fish and bread, but taught us that we don’t live by bread alone; reminding us that He is the Bread of Life. He shouted her name through Colossians and showed her that it was for freedom that He’d set her free. That she was no longer bound to the rules of this world, to health gurus and page numbers or cups and scales. That she can trust the body He gave her, so carefully made for her. And that she can and should listen only to the unfailing God who gives discernment and provides for daily needs, whether food or clothing. That maybe there are some casts she won’t have to wear forever. That she is healing, but there is reason to hope in and trust God and His Word, that He will not give her more than she can handle and that he will reveal just as much as she needs to know right now.

She stretched her arms out wide across the table, laying her forehead against the wood and exhaled deeply, finally admitting the truth: She’s had the original Living food all along.

She lived happily ever after because her hope finally found its home. As beautiful and dazzling as this world may be, her hope and treasures are finally where they were made to be. With Him. In a world without end. Amen.

Halloween Candy Sacrificed to Idols

“So, next week is Halloween,” I said to my Bible study girls. They all nodded as I told them we wouldn’t meet so they could do whatever it is that they normally do on said day.

“Oh, we don’t celebrate Halloween,” one of the girls said. This isn’t a new response. I’ve been in the homeschooling realm for a few years and we are good friends with folks who bake Jesus a birthday cake at Christmas, throwing aside the whole Santa hoopla. I am well-versed in Resurrection Eggs and Harvest Festivals and they can produce an equal amount of smiles and fun.

But I couldn’t get that word out of my head. Does anyone really celebrate Halloween?

The day came and I hesitantly dressed my son in an orange velour onesie – thank you, Grandmother – with “Trick or Treat” stitched onto the lapel, all the while hauling around the guilt that I am not living a set apart life if I play along with this whole Halloween thing. Because I am aware of the pagan implications of this spooky tradition, but I am also aware that Protestant Christians are now in the minority and almost 20% of Americans have no religious affiliation whatsoever. In short, Americans aren’t turning to witchcraft, they are turning to themselves.

And last night I learned that Halloween isn’t about declaring devotion, nor is it about torturing someone if they don’t hand over their sugar-laden goods. We joined our neighbors and set up one big table for our whole street – a sort of one stop shop for Trick-or-Treaters. We all sat in our folding chairs and visited as a pathetic number of dressed-up kiddos filed along on a school night. And somewhere between the third Athena and a brilliantly revived Luigi costume, it hit me. Culturally, we need Halloween. Just like we need the Super Bowl and Santa and the Easter Bunny, we need several annual reasons to get excited.

Sure, Americans may have spent an alarming $2.87 billion on Halloween this year, with a frightful percentage of that on pet costumes, but I think we are mostly bored. And we look for any excuse or occasion to distract us from how bored we are. And we are bored because we are not captivated. So, in the end, it’s not about celebrating Halloween’s dark roots or putting your child in a pumpkin costume rather than a vampire one, it’s about focus and purpose. And, at the end of the day, I believe I can take my dressed up child on a free candy shopping trip through the neighborhood and still keep my eyes on Jesus.