Journey

I have always wanted to be a jogger, and this past summer, I started to take that desire a little bit more seriously.

I didn’t do as much running as I should have,

But also,

I did more running than I would have if I wouldn’t have done any running.

That’s my way of saying that since May 5, I have gone out running thirty-seven times. (And that’s all the statistics you’ll get from me, folks. Don’t even ask for more.)

I am going to be sharing two posts on the topic of running.

Today, I’m sharing something that I wrote way back on May 9, when I was just starting out with running, and the whole process of convincing myself to go was a pretty big deal. This post also contains photos from where we lived before we moved that I felt were too pretty not to use somewhere, but didn’t know exactly where to use. Since the majority of my thirty-seven runs took place in that beautiful little town, it seemed like this might be an acceptable place to use those photos.

Next Monday, I’m going to share “A List of Confessions, Tips, Experiences, and Thoughts from a Half-hearted Runner”.


 

Let me tell you a story about a girl who never knows when she can trust herself.

It probably begins years ago, when she was a child, but for the purpose of this story, it begins on a Monday morning, at 5:45. The alarm goes off, and the girl’s legs are still stiff from the two previous mornings of exercise, and she decides, “No. Not this morning. I’m tired, and I already hurt.”

She stays in bed while her husband gets up and leaves for his run.

But at 6:12, she sits up, oddly alert for having been dozing.

Maybe I will go after all.

So she gets up and gets ready. But by the time she’s ready, it’s bright outside, the husband is back, and the street is full of cars going to work, even though it’s only 6:30. The girl sits on the cold steps out in the fresh morning. She could still go. But there’s not that much time, and she feels weird about all the people driving to work seeing her running.

The girl decides not to go running, but she can’t stand the thought of officially giving up and going inside, so she sits on the steps and feels a bit like crying, and also a little bit proud that at least she is not still in bed sleeping.

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Tuesday morning comes, and it’s 5:45. It will be a busy day with teaching, a bridal shower supper, and a board meeting, so she already isn’t planning on running. How wonderful to just know that she isn’t going running. She feels very free as she goes back to sleep while the husband leaves. At 6:11, she sits up.

Really? Again? She gets out of bed and gets ready to go, not even knowing if she’s actually going to run this time.

Something inside her soul is pulling and poking uncomfortably, and so is something in her stomach, and she sits on the edge of the bed. Time is ticking and the mental agony is increasing because she WANTS to go, but her stomach…

It starts to feel better, and she decides to go. Maybe just a walk. No running.

This whole exercising ordeal is so mentally uncomfortable and exhausting for her, and she wonders if maybe she should give it up altogether. For the sake of her sanity.

She goes. The cars drive past, and it’s 6:37, but she is going. There comes a point where the road turns to gravel, and she starts to run. She only runs one kilometer, which doesn’t sound like much, and it isn’t. But she runs with the husband’s words pounding in her heart to just try. Don’t walk. Just run.

It turns out that she can do it. Without dying even once.

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As she climbs the hill on her way back, she sees the tinges of green on the trees. A closer look brings brand new buds into focus- slowly, slowly coming.

When she sees this, the girl who never knows when she can trust herself remembers that life isn’t about achieving something all at once.

It’s about

One by one

Step by step

Better by better.

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Hiking Philosophy

I have always liked the idea of hiking, but haven’t always liked the actual hiking.

The idea of traipsing through nature was appealing, but my legs… they’d get so tired, and it wouldn’t take long for me to just wish to be done with the hike. It always felt like, in order to hike properly, one must move briskly towards the end point. To me, taking breaks felt like a shameful thing that revealed my weakness.

I have a new hiking philosophy now.

And it is this:

For me, hiking is not about how far along the trail I make it.

It’s not about moving quickly.

It’s about stopping to sit in the places that are beautiful. It’s about sitting there for as long as I want to, without feeling guilty about not making any headway on the trail.

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Come to think of it, for me, hiking is mostly about sitting.

(Now I’m just making fun of myself.)

(But it’s true.)

The following photos were taken at Rattlesnake Point on Saturday, October 20, by myself and my fellow sitter/hiker, Ricky.

 

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Photo credit: Ricky Martin

 

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Photo Credit: Ricky Martin
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Photo Credit: Ricky Martin
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Photo Credit: Ricky Martin

Prepared

It’s the Sunday before communion at my church, and that means it’s our preparatory service.

A time for each of us to evaluate our relationship with God and to share the results of that soul-searching with our church family.

 

I love preparatory service.

 

I marvel at the people who speak their hearts in a calm and clear voice.

I marvel even more at the people who speak their hearts in a quivering voice.

I grow more and more jittery

And I rehearse over and over in my head what I am going to say

Until it is well-nigh memorized.

 

I am going to say something about how

 

The message and the Sunday school lesson affirmed one thing that God has been teaching me lately, and that thing is that sin is sin is sin is sin. I am too quick to dismiss my personal sin as just “bad habits” or “areas that I need to work on”, when really, it is sin. Awful, ugly sin. I often think that I can fix these things myself by just making whatever changes need to be made. But when I do that, I deprive the Gospel of its glory and its power. I miss out on the beauty of turning to Jesus to repent and receive grace. I want to live out of a reliance on Jesus’ grace, rather than my own self-discipline.

 

Or I could maybe say something about how

 

This week I prayed and asked God for something, and he sent me three small answers to my prayer. The beautiful thing is that although these three things were small, they can all be grown and developed. They are beginnings, and beginnings are gifts.

 

Or

I could read Hebrews 10:14 and try to explain how I just do not understand it. It blows my mind. In the best of ways.

 

I think these things through and through.

 

But when it is my turn to speak,

I stand up,

And I say,

 

“I have peace with God

And with my fellow man

And I’m looking forward to communion.”

 

Just that.

It’s true

 

But it’s not everything.

It’s not the whole story.

 

I knew that was what would happen.

It’s certainly not the first time that something like this has happened.

 

I felt relief when I chose it,

But also grief.

 

Why do I always have to bring so very much of myself to everything I do?

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One Little Task

I confess that I just spent the whole last week being a very lazy human being.

We won’t get into the details.

But let’s just say that all of my laziness last week resulted in a wonky sleep schedule, a Friday night and Saturday morning spent fiercely and furiously sewing a dress for family photos on Saturday afternoon, stacks of dishes, and a frustrated attitude. (Poor Ricky. He had to deal with my snippiness. AND the dishes. Bless him.)

Yeah.

Let’s just leave it at that. I know this kind of thing doesn’t happen to anyone else, so I don’t want to overwhelm you with more details.

I seem to go through stages of sometimes being driven by productivity and other times feeling completely unmotivated to do anything. Consistency has never been a strong point of mine. Do you know what the crazy thing about these two attitudes is?

For me, the difference between these two attitudes usually lies in ONE TASK.

One little task.

If I do one thing, doing another thing feels manageable and appealing.

But before I do that one thing, getting started can seem almost impossible.

One little task.

I recently read through the book of Proverbs. Being the sort of person who loves little tidbits of wisdom on how to live well, I enjoy Proverbs a lot. Proverbs is a book of the Bible that happens to frequently address the topic of laziness. I’m going to share a few verses that I’m choosing to focus on this week as I tackle some things that I’ve been avoiding. There are many areas of life that these can be applied to- spiritual growth, physical work, relationships, personal development, etc.

Proverbs 18:9

“Whoever is slack in his work, is a brother to him who destroys.”

Laziness is the same as destruction? In a way, it is. This was a sobering thought for me.

 

Proverbs 19:15

“…an idle person will suffer hunger.”

The word hunger here speaks to me of discontent- hunger for success, hunger for the things I value, hunger for a deeper knowledge of and love for God. Idleness leaves you longing and weak.

 

Proverbs 20:4

“The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.”

Laziness- doesn’t work/think ahead, but still feels entitled to a harvest. That sounds painfully familiar to me.

 

Proverbs 25:28

“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”

A lack of self-discipline leaves you without walls- weak and vulnerable.

 

Proverbs 21:25-26

“The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labour. All day long, he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back.”

I find it interesting that the sluggard craves and craves, but the righteous find their righteousness not in collecting and gaining (satisfying cravings), but in wholeheartedly giving.

Here we go, folks.

A whole new week.

Let’s give and not hold back.

And let’s remember to be joyful and calm and delighted as we go along our way, shall we? We spend far too much time feeling pressured and tense and stressed. (That is a whole new topic, right there…maybe some other time we should talk about that.)

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What areas of your life do you battle laziness in? What can we do this week to fight against the temptation to avoid rather than tackle

Moments of Connection- Part 2

The last time I blogged, I wrote about an experience of mine that made me feel like I had been seen. By that, I mean that it helped me to feel like I am a real-live human being who is not invisible and not weird and who is capable of connecting with other human beings. I think I am still adjusting to the fact that we now live in a community where we don’t know people. It’s very odd to go grocery shopping and see no one that you know. My introvert self likes it, but there is also a part of me that misses the potential of being recognized and acknowledged.

Now.

What I am about to say next may sound kind of the opposite. I mean, I just said that I missed being recognized and acknowledged. And now, I’m saying this:

I don’t like to draw attention to myself, and being a Mennonite woman has a way of drawing some attention to yourself. And this bothers me.  (There. I said it.) I think that I am mainly bothered by it because I am generally a reserved person who prefers to not be in the spotlight and also because I don’t like the idea of people possibly making negative assumptions about me based on misconceptions about Mennonites or Christians. I also need to remember that I have also had people make positive assumptions about me based on my appearance. (This is a complicated topic…)

There are people who do a double take when they see me and there are lots of times when I look up and make eye contact with someone who is watching me, and what is there to do then except to smile nicely and say, “Hello, where are the Triscuits in this dumb grocery store?”  (I have never said that to anyone. I promise.)

It is only fair to also note that there are a whole lot of people who don’t give me a second glance. And there are sometimes people that I watch out of curiosity too.

ANYWAYS.

What I’m trying to say is that it can be exhausting to feel anxious about your appearance every time you have to go anywhere. I was definitely feeling that exhaustion three weeks after our move, and I was annoyed at myself for being so “shallow” and concerned about appearances. But then came an experience where I didn’t feel like I was sticking out. I felt like I belonged, and it went a long way in reminding me of where my identity truly rests.

It was at a Chris Tomlin concert.

Ricky and I were generously offered two free tickets to Chris Tomlin’s first ever late night worship session. Ricky already had plans, but since it was only five minutes from our house and since my sister Renee was willing to come with me, I decided to go even though it’s been years since I regularly listened to Chris Tomlin.

I donned my largest glasses and charged my phone in preparation for selfies and instagram stories, and off we went. And you know what?

I loved worshipping in the middle of the night with all those other Christians. I felt like I belonged right there with all of them, even though I looked a little bit different. The feeling of connection caught me off-guard, because, out of habit, I carried my fear and dislike of standing out to the concert with me. I had forgotten that there’s something powerful about a whole group of believers- with all their different ideas and opinions and personalities and backgrounds- singing and listening and praying and laughing and longing for God and for heaven together. I had forgotten that God is my good, good father- that I am His and He is mine. I had forgotten the joy and freedom of my salvation. I had forgotten that He is a healing and living God.

That concert, with its songs and its audience, reminded me of those things and I left feeling encouraged and stronger, because I was reminded that I had God’s spirit in me. I left feeling unseen– just one small believer surrounded by an big and beautiful cloud of witnesses.

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Those are my stories.

In conclusion, I have been seen and unseen here, and I feel more rooted in this place because of it. I have learned that I crave this- to be acknowledged as an individual, but to also have a place in a larger group. I bet I’m not alone in that desire. The beautiful thing is that we can all take care of each other in these ways. That’s my challenge for you: value people as individuals and make space in the group for them.

Moments of Connection- Part 1

I’m not going to write about living in Toronto every time I blog, but for now, living here is still a fresh enough experience to be the focal point of my processing. So please bear with me as I share another post about settling into life here.


 

There have been so many kind and caring people who have asked me how settling into Toronto life has been. I usually say that it’s gone surprisingly smoothly, because it has. (We shan’t get into the complicated questions that have arisen inside me. Questions like, “Now that we are successfully here, and surviving, how will we figure out when it’s time to leave?” or “Maybe we will just stay here for years and years? Could it be done? Should it be done?” It is too soon to think about these sorts of things. But just the same… if you have an answer, let me know.)

The other thing that I have been telling people is that the more ordinary experiences I have here, the homier it feels. Things like going for a bike ride or a run or visiting a nearby café go a long way in helping a new place feel like home.

I would like to share two completely unrelated experiences that I have had here. The only thing they have in common is that they helped me to feel more like this is home. And I liked them. I’ll share the first one today, and the second one sometime later this week.

The first experience I like to refer to as my “Polar Express Moment”. If you have never watched The Polar Express, then that won’t make sense to you, and that’s okay. (But you should really consider watching The Polar Express sometime. It’s one of my favourites. I’d love to watch it with you. I’ll even make a snack or two.)

Here’s what happened.

It was a grey and windy and perfectly drab Thursday afternoon. I was feeling pretty good.  I stopped at Dollarama on my way home from work to pick up a few things that I needed. On my way into the store, I noticed that there were two young guys standing by the entrance. (Somewhere between ages 14-17, maybe?) They were wearing some kind of uniform and it looked to me as though they were supposed to be collecting money for an organization of some sort. I say “supposed to be collecting money” because I witnessed several people walking in ahead of me, and not once did these boys attempt to ask for any donations. I walked into the store, collected my things, paid for them, made some witty comment to the cashier about how “the nice thing about buying a basket is that you don’t need any bags because you can just put the rest of the stuff in the basket”, put my receipt in the basket, and walked out.

Now here is the Polar Express moment.

Once I had a taken a few steps away from the door, the wind snatched that receipt right out of my basket.

At this point, time seemed to pause and many thoughts ran through my mind.

It’s just a receipt. You would throw it out as soon as you get home anyways. Let it go.

You will look like a crazy person if you choose to chase this receipt hither and yon. Also, starting to chase it and then giving up seems a little bit ridiculous. Might as well not even start.

Those two teenagers are right there and probably watching and so you should be an adult and not litter.

The rest of the world faded away, and it was just me and my thoughts, with that receipt dancing and twirling tantalizingly in the wind. I watched that receipt, resisting the urge to frantically start grabbing for it. Somehow I knew that frantic grabbing would not work.

I felt myself pause for the briefest of moments, and then I reached out…

And I snatched that receipt right out of the air.

(I’m a little bit proud of this. I am.)

From one of those guys who was standing by the door of Dollarama, I heard the words, “Nice catch!” and the only adverb that seems to accurately describe the tone in which he said it is the adverb admiringly. I turned around and both of them were smiling at me, and I was smiling (probably because of the adrenaline rush), and you know what I said?

I said, “Thanks!”

They seemed like very nice guys, although not great at soliciting donations.

And I felt like I had been seen.

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Tune in later this week to read about the second experience, in which I felt “unseen” in the very best of ways.