Tuesday, April 22, 2014

April 21, 2014- From Within

            “I Can Do All Things Through Him Who Gives Me Strength.” (Phil 4:13)

            Well, I did it.  It wasn’t pretty.  It wasn’t even moderately good-looking, but I finished.  It took me a whole hour longer than my last marathon.  I cried like a baby during the last quarter.  My right knee, the one with the attitude problem, was not going to shut up and get with the program.  So I had to walk for at least the last four.  I tried a number of times to start running again, but no.  It was just not going to happen.  So I walked.
The Citgo Sign!!!
            I kept saying over and over again, “I don’t care.”  I was trying to convince myself it was okay that runners were streaming by me and I was not really getting the job done like I thought I should.  I was not running my marathon.
            Marathon runners talk about “hitting that wall” at around mile twenty.  In this race, I not only hit the wall, but I was sorta ground into it like a bug on the windshield that needs some extra fluid and a few extra strokes of the wipers to clear it off- a real mess that couldn’t seem to be scraped off until the next day.  Forget the fun Samuel Adams Post Race Party, or going to watch the Gibbs kids in their play this evening, or just proudly sporting my medal and official jacket with the other runners in town, it was all I could do to remain in an upright position in the bus ride back to the hotel.
            We then decided to simply go down to the hotel restaurant for some dinner, and I could hardly eat, and had to leave and go back up to the room early.   I just felt like a big pile of poo.  Nothing I could do to get out of it, no miracle pill, no readjustment to a comfortable position.  
The cross, on so many levels, was my intimate friend today.  
Now, as my brain is starting to clear and I look back and try to figure out the lessons that I know are in there for me, I guess there are many.  So many people were praying for me.  It is overwhelming really and I know that with all that traffic, all that noise in God’s face- so much so that He couldn’t avoid it, I know there are reasons why it all happened like it did, and not like I thought it should.  God was in control, not me.
The thing that is forefront is the fact that throughout this blogging experience I have had a couple reoccurring themes going:  I kept focusing on the fact that I wanted to live it.  I wanted to live.
Let me live it Lord! 
The other reoccurring theme is my rambling about wanting to take on that cross:  If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me...." (Luke 9:23)
I’m smiling as I think about the prayers answered- as I reflect on those five hours of carrying that huge cross I absolutely did live that experience.  Because I had to walk I think it slowed everything down and as I came into Boston, and the beautiful buildings and all the people cheering I was able to use that top layer of the jell-o mold (my head) and look up!  I was able to see the people up in the balconies and the magnolias just opening their blooms, the sign that read: “Smile if you peed yourself a little” (yes, I smiled and gave him a thumbs up) and mostly high-fiving all the cute kids standing along the twenty-six miles of sidelines. 

I prayed.  I talked to the Blessed Mother.  I talked to my mother.  Heck, I talked to whoever I thought could help me!!  Every part of me was in agony, every mile was an eternity.  As each of those four Newton Hills came on me I offered them up to God for my four reasons.  I asked Jesus to fortify me, over and over. 
And I cried.  I looked around me.  I looked up and took it all in and it was so much that it came out of my eyes.   
I called Jim at the top of Heartbreak Hill and told him to tell me something.  (He always loves that, as coming up with off-the-cuff happy thoughts and feelings are so easy and fun for him.  Not.)  He told me it’s alright.  It was okay to walk.  I needed to hear him tell me that, so I called him back like two more times.  What an odd way to spend a marathon race, but apparently I wasn’t in charge. 
I thought about each one of my children, my family, those who told me they were praying.  I thought of my friend Kirk Steen, who was running it with me in spirit, and his beautiful wife Mandy, who experienced the Boston Marathon in a way that was completely different than what she had anticipated not just a month ago…
All these things, and so much more fill me.  I posted during the first week of this blog, on Christmas Eve:

  I pause for a moment to breathe it all in, pull out my phone to snap a couple photos of the scene and the old stone barn to post later on facebook.  I need to share the experience a little, to post a comment on how incredibly blessed I am to have this beautiful view to run passed.  On a day filled with thoughts of blessings, and family, and happy times… my cup runneth over.   

How appropriate.  How true.  How overwhelming.  And I say once again, Thank-you Lord Jesus.  You have given me so much more than I will ever deserve or earn.  You have made me and only from you do I possess a fire that burns from within. 
From within.  So as I end this little adventure I latch onto that grace from within and scan the horizons for the next chapter, the next great or small adventure on this marathon journey through life.
Thank you for being a part of it. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

April 20, 2014- Finishing Up a Chapter

            Jesus Christ is risen!  Alleluia!  Not only that, but I can eat candy and drink pop again!  Alleluia.  I am not really doing too much of that yet though, as tomorrow I have to run a small race that I decided to be a part of while I’m in town.  I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it?  The Boston Marathon? 
            Jim and I got up and took a cab to the Catholic Church on the campus of Harvard University, St. Paul’s.  It is this beautifully detailed tribute to the glory of God- inlays of gold-ish tile and stained glass, frescos of saints, marbled pillars rising up to heaven. 
            As we all joined with the brass and organ, it filled and echoed through the colossal space and I really felt that connection once again to my mother, who is celebrating this Easter, this triumph of Christ in heaven.  Right then the two churches were one- the church militant and the church triumphant, and she was right there with me, because once again- we are all connected. 
            I keep reflecting on the things Allie was talking about yesterday, about Christ’s Resurrection and how He saved us from our sins.  It is Jesus Who makes all things new.  And at what a price He saved us!  So now what?  Do we just say, “Hey, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.” and go along on our own way?  Or does this change us forever?  Is our life no longer ours?  Do we allow Christ to claim us as one of His, branded to this One Who redeemed us?  If so, then we can no longer sit idly by.  In the second reading today St. Paul said:

            Brothers and sisters:  If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.” 

            Yes, Jesus most certainly paid the ultimate price for our sins now and forever.  I truly believe this.  But I also believe that it doesn’t stop there.  I have used the verse in the heading of this blog that is just as relevant on this Easter day as any other, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me...." (Luke 9:23)
            Again I ask myself; so now what?  Well, I’ve come down to it, to the end of this little chapter in my life with just one more day until it is completed, and what a day it will be.  (Gosh, that’s sounds kinda final.)  Like there will be no more chapters in my book.  I assure you, that’s not the plan.  My life’s book has lots of small parts, just finishing up a chapter. 
I can’t help but reflect on all the things I have learned and done over the last four months that have brought me to this point in time.  The pain.  The anxiety.  The doubts.  The triumphs.  They have all gone into shaping me into the daughter I am.  And now, with a full heart I wrap it all up as a gift to my God.  I am asking Him over and over to fortify me.  Fortify me Lord, that I might glorify You. 
Now, I am perfectly aware that we are not talking some monumental titanic dealy here.  It’s not like the clouds are going to part from on high as I cross that finish line and the angels are going to break into song.  Then again I never claimed to be all that (at least not often enough to make it stick).  But Jesus isn’t asking me to solve the entire world’s problems or win the Nobel Peace Prize.  He understands fully what He has to work with, it’s not much, but then He’s not asking for much.  Just all of me.   
            I recommit myself to the four reasons I decided to champion on this journey.  I will be thinking about that piece of paper with this typed on them on the closet door by my treadmill: 

Why am I doing this…
1.)  In thanksgiving for the great gift of the Blessed Sacrament.
2.)  To make amends to the Sacred Heart for all the outrages committed against the Blessed Sacrament by me, by those I love, and by Your enemies.
3.)  I intend to adore You in all the places on earth where The Holy Eucharist is present and most forgotten and abandoned.
4.)  And I offer it up for all those You have given me to love.

            The weather is supposed to be good tomorrow.  You know what?  I think I will head out and live a little.  And while I’m at it, I just might run for a few hours. 

April 19, 2014- Redemption and Rebirth

            We flew into Boston yesterday, Good Friday.  I’ve been playing with a lovely headache that with the turbulence and altitudes is something extra special.  It reminded me of our trip back from China with a nine month baby in tow.  I had me a kind of headache going then that resembled a large Samoan native cleaving my skull open like a fresh melon.  It’s caused by a combination of hormones, stress, and lack of sleep that pile on top of each other until my cranium revolts.  In a big way.
the finish line in the distance- so cool
Allie Gibbs came to meet us at the airport and escorted us back via bus and subway to her brother’s dorm.  Both the older Gibbs kids go to college at Emerson, not even a mile from the finish line.  Their parents are our closest friends- a friendship that began some twelve years ago when we discovered we were both adopting from China.  They had just been, and had invited us over to meet their family.  We told them that was their crucial mistake.  We have since latched on like some noxious dingle berry.  Can’t seem to shake us loose.    
We spent our first night reacquainting ourselves with college dorm life and catching up with Gabe and Allie.  Just relaxed and ordered pizza.  After an interesting night on an air mattress that had a slow leak- I woke up with a start at two-thirty in the morning as my husband got up to use the restroom and I was pitched violently into a black hole, we actually managed to acquire more sleep than I have gotten in the last four days. 
We hit the ground running this morning, fueled by a wonderful large Caramel Flan Latte from Starbucks.  The sun was shining bright throughout the city.  It reflected off the old stone churches and tall glass buildings as if on proud display to welcome the throng of runners who were ready to take it all in.  Talk about a charged and celebratory atmosphere!  It is hard to put it into words. 
Outside the Old South Church by the finish line special volunteers were giving out blue and gold scarfs to the runners- to commemorate the colors from last year’s marathon.  They were all different, crocheted in special patterns.  I chose one from around the lady’s neck and she took my hand and said that this scarf was made with love and hope from a member of a church in Vermont… She told me it was interwoven with love and courage.
I was a bit overwhelmed actually, moved to tears.  I have never been the recipient of something like that, a gift made by someone who doesn’t know me and was sending love and support to a faceless person who mattered to them.  I wore that scarf proudly, and smiled at the many other men and women I saw throughout this gloriously wonderful day who were proudly wearing their own unique scarves.    
Allie made such an insightful comment about the experience, the entire day really.  She said it’s interesting how Easter is tomorrow, the time for rebirth and redemption, and that is what was going on all around us.  “Boston Strong” was everywhere.  After the horrible evil of last year- healing, grace, rebirth, God’s goodness has triumphed. 
Such a beautiful thing to see and I am so incredibly blessed to be here to experience it.   
My husband said he forgot to dial down his halo before the photo

Friday, April 18, 2014

April 17, 2014- I Have Found It!

            Holy Thursday.  It was not necessarily filled with all the holy things this Catholic girl could have been doing.  I got side-tracked with a whole lot of last minute shenanigans before we leave tomorrow.  As Irish-accented Carroll O’Connor said in the movie Return to Me: “I’m blessed with work.”  That was the way of it today.  Gracie and I hit the ground running, with appraisal appointments, dropping her off at Uncle KC and Auntie Jenny’s, arranging Easter baskets, (shh) another great appointment, and then lots of busy things.  It’s not like Jim and I are big-time travelers; it takes a lot of actual thinking to make it all come together.  Then I had to clean the whole house because God forbid I run the Boston Marathon with a dirty house!  (I can’t escape it.  I am wired like my mother. xo)
            On the surface we appear to have all our important stuff packed and I’m going to go with that otherwise my head will explode.  Then we were able to slow down for just a minute, walk over through the soft, spring darkness to the church for a visit to Jesus on this night of remembering when He was imprisoned.  It is very hard to get my mind to slow down right now, but as I came into the silent chapel and knelt down, my prayer was an instant and interesting one.
            I talked to God my daddy, Abba, and told Him I don’t want to be separated from Him over the next couple of days.  I tend to forget about God when there are a lot of bells and whistles going off around me.  I am a child easily distracted.  And I don’t want to do that.  I want to hold my Abba’s hand through this whole experience.  He is the one responsible for getting me here, and I don’t want to leave Him behind.  Another news flash:  It isn’t about me!  And I don’t want to experience the next few days without Him! 
            These thoughts fully filled my heart as I then sat there beside my husband and we prayed and the tears came.  This whole week the tears have been coming.  I have been going to morning mass this week and I sit there and cannot believe how much Jesus is heaping on the grace into every bit of me right now.  I had prayed early on in this journey for Him to heap it on: “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and over-flowing, will be poured into your lap.” (Luke 6:38)
            I am so overwhelmed by the prayers being said for me, for the graces given to a daughter who can never earn them, nor ever deserve them.  I can feel the graces.  They are so strong within me that they bubble up and come out my eyes- in the form of such happy tears.  I am so profoundly grateful, am feeling so much love for God, imperfect though it may be- on so many levels that I cannot even form it all into words. 
            On this special day when Jesus, at the very end of His earthy life instituted the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, I just want to sing out once again that I have found it.  In all my searchings and struggles; I have found the Pearl of Greatest Value.  My Jesus, my All, in the Blessed Sacrament.  For me- He is everything. 
            And finally, to put it all into proper perspective I saw a face book post to my wall from my friend and neighbor Mandy.  It was her dear husband Kirk who died just a short time ago.   She will be at home instead of making the trip to Boston like they had planned together.  She posted: 

  Wishing you a good run! Enjoy every minute, high five every little kid on the street, cheer with the students at the top of the hill! Celebrate all that you have accomplished to get to Boston! I'll be cheering for you! Please add your miles to Kirk Steen, Boston when you are done!! Can't wait to hear all about it when you get back!
Look up!  It's springtime!