Saturday, June 24, 2017

Over the hill...

I was sitting in a meeting and made the statement, "I'm not over the hill yet..." and one of those random thoughts hit me. If this "hill" is my life and I'm around the halfway point, then yes....I AM over the hill.

Okay, this may be elementary stuff to a lot of people, but truthfully I had never thought about what the term "over the hill" actually referred to. It was something that came up at birthdays....usually in the form of black balloons and obnoxious black decorations...usually brought by a much younger, yet equally obnoxious friend. Still, I never really had connected it to any kind of real meaning. Now I'm starting to realize that "over the hill" refers to reaching the halfway point of your life, the top, and then starting down the other side. Since I am now 58, I guess it's pretty safe to say I am "over the hill".

Think about it. If you have ever run up a huge hill, you know what I mean. It seems to take FOREVER to reach the top and the idea of going down the other side never really crosses your mind. You're just trying to conquer the hill. When we are younger, we are trying to make our way in the world, conquer our fears, and reach the pinnacle of our success. If we are lucky, the top of the hill plateaus for a while and we get to jog along at an easier pace allowing our heart rate to adjust....but for every up there is a down.

When you first start running down, you kind of like the new feeling of speed you are experiencing. You actually look kind of fast, maybe even cool! Then, after a few more steps you find yourself accelerating toward the bottom at such a lightning speed you worry a little that you might fall (and can't get up...) The bottom is coming at you MUCH faster than the top ever did....sort of like the feeling you get when you say "time is passing so fast". No, time isn't moving faster, you're just getting closer to the end of the hill. (I heard once that life was like a roll of toilet paper, the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes. This "over the hill" run is just the same thing.)

I guess that in this analogy, my daily appointment with the treadmill or the track must be my attempt to run up the down escalator....slowing down my descent to the bottom. I know I can't stop it, but I'm in no real rush to get there. I don't really want to just "sit and ride" on this trip. I have no idea when I will reach the base of this hill, but when I do I want to be giving it all I've got.

Sitting down and just waiting for the bottom of the hill is, however, not an option. Each new day brings with it a work that needs to be done. In John 9, you find the story of the blind man whom Jesus healed. the disciples were asking their usual stupid questions (which makes me feel much better when I have to do that) and this was the response: Jesus said, "You're asking the wrong question. You're looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world's Light." (emphasis mine)

When I finally reach the bottom of this hill, my workday will be over....but for as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light....cause I'm supposed to allow the light of Christ to shine through me. There isn't really time to sit and wait for the bottom to long as I'm on this hill, I'm supposed to be doing the work of the One who sent me.

So there you have it. My version of over the hill. No matter where you find yourself on the hill of life, I hope you are shining His light for all to see. We'll work together and I hope I can safely say..."See you at the bottom" when we run into the arms of Christ and hear "well done, my good and faithful servant."

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Journey Back to Running...Again

It's hard to believe that I started running over 10 years ago...while I haven't been consistent, it is still a part of who I am.

I am a runner...really I feel like that should say "I WAS a runner" because right now I'm not so sure I can claim that title...and the journey back to running is a hard one.

When I first started running in 2006, it was a new experience for me. While I had run a little in high school, I was really never much of an athlete. There was one race I won simply because no other school had anyone to enter into the mile event. They put their best sprinters in, but they didn't know how to keep plodding along for an entire mile. That race looked like a real live "Tortoise and Hares" kind of race. I was thrilled, but even I knew I wasn't really much of a runner....they were just unprepared.

Fast forward 30 years (yes, it took that many years before I started running again.) We had just come through Hurricane Katrina and I was discovering a new lifestyle of fitness that I really enjoyed. I had gotten used to the heat, thanks to no electricity for two weeks, and I was losing weight, thanks to reduced food being readily available....did I mention we'd had a hurricane? I even was getting used to exercise thanks to having to haul limbs and trees from my front yard, wet clothes from my destroyed closet, and construction debris from my house while we tried to repair the rooms. In the midst of all this, I discovered the program "Biggest Loser", thanks in part to only having one station that would come in clearly after the storm. That show became my inspiration and motivation to hit the gym.

After about 7 months of exercising on a regular basis, I  decided to enter a race to celebrate my 48th birthday, (was that really 10 years ago???) It was a 5K and it seemed like such a HUGE distance, but I was determined to give it a try. I signed up and then started increasing my time on the treadmill in hopes of not being too embarrassed at the race. Truthfully, I still had no thoughts of myself as an athlete. I was just having fun.

Race day came and I not only ran part of the course, I actually won my age division....thanks once again to no one else in my age bracket showing up for the race. Still, I didn't care. I was hooked. I was so proud of my first place medal that day. I still, however, didn't really consider myself a runner.

For the next few weeks, I continued going to the gym to run/walk on the treadmills. Then on my way home one day, I saw a woman at our school track setting up cones so I decided to ask what she was doing. She was from the local runners club and they were beginning a 12 week training course for 5K's. She encouraged me to come. I gave her the old, "I'll try", and went home. It had been a particularly tough day and I just wanted to collapse on my couch and feel sorry for myself. Somehow, her encouragement kept ringing in my head and before I knew it I was lacing up my shoes and heading back out the door.

I came to the training pretty faithfully. To be honest, I remember being amazed at myself. I had never been that consistent with any form of exercise in my life! Each week I could see a bit of improvement in my abilities...but I still didn't see myself as a runner, especially not since I was out there with people who were running 5K's so much faster than me. Looking back, I realize that during those beginning days at the track, I was surrounded by some of the most encouraging people I had ever known in my life. Each runner was working on becoming better, and eager to help others do the same. They kept me coming back. The most encouraging person of all was our "coach." She was a few years older than me, but able to run faster and longer than women half her age. She saw in me what I could not see in myself.

I distinctly remember the race when I signed my name as Donna "the runner" Sumrall. I did it as a joke, but also as a motivator to myself. Coach had been telling me for weeks I had to start seeing myself as a runner; on that day, as an act of will, I decided to do just that. I don't remember if I even placed in that race, but I do remember how I felt when I crossed the finish line. I felt like I could do anything I put my mind to.

With each week, I continued to run, even setting my sights on a half marathon. I ran that half marathon and had a blast....and then I quit running. No, I didn't quit running as much. I quit running. One week turned into one month that turned into one year that turned into two. I'd make sporadic attempts at getting back into a routine, but something was different; something was missing.

Over the next two years, I continued to occasionally run, but not with the joy or success I once knew; and I miss that. So now what do I do? Well, like most people who somehow get off course, I've decided to go back to the beginning and start again. For me, that means hitting the gym and joining others training for a 5K. Last night was the second meeting of the training group, and I was there. Once again I found the joy that I have been missing! It was found in others who were also learning to love the run...or at least were determined to learn to love the run. The training was broken into small, do-able steps. With every pound of my foot on the pavement, I felt the renewed joy of the journey. In the words of Inigo Montoya (Princess Bride) “I am waiting for you, Vizzini. You told me to go back to the beginning. So I have.” Hopefully, this time I won't "quit".

For those in the Hattiesburg area, the Pinebelt Pacers have begun their beginner 5k training on Tuesdays at the Thames track. Come join in what some of us call "fun". 

Hebrews 12:1, GOD'S WORD® Translation (©1995)

"Since we are surrounded by so many examples [of faith], we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up."