Sunday, April 24, 2011

True Grit.

We all face gritty moments. By gritty I mean that life throws us challenges that make us dig inside and see how much grit we can summon. Can we keep on? Will we rise and meet or give up and hide? Do we have the resolve to grit our teeth and press forward? My mother has grit. My grandmother had grit. My great grandmother and great great grandmother had it too. They raced for land, lived in dugouts, went back to school to be a nurse, cared for sick husbands and orphaned brothers and sisters, opened their own businesses, limped through life with disability, and faced disappointments in life, nature, people, and hope. But, they faced them.

Once when I was training for a marathon I had a very long run that felt even longer than the 19 miles I was supposed to go that day. For whatever reason, I felt particularly weak in the legs and heart. I was slogging through the miles, wondering if this was really worth it at all. I was tired, body and soul. Then they came.

As I ran, I felt Meme, Nanny-no, and Grandmother Sullins watching me in pride and joy. I felt these women, who shouldered so much and endured so well, looking at me with smiles and encouragement. It lifted me. I saw myself doing something very hard. And doing it was going to make me more like them. I felt them telling me not to quit, not to shrink, and not to turn back. I thought of my Meme, limping along with her twisted hips, watching her granddaughter taking strides and running miles. I saw my Nanny-no, imagining her as my mother described her, standing on the porch, wringing her apron, expressing concern when my mother was running late, and somehow producing a meal from her slim pantry to feed whoever needed feeding. And Grandmother Sullins, whom I met only as a baby, carving out her life in the dugout in Oklahoma. And they were cheering for me. They had done hard things. Lots of them. And so could I.

Life is full of hard things. Running a marathon is easy compared to many of them. Our shoulders get tired, our eyes get wet, and our hands hang down. Those are the gritty moments. And at those moments, when we feel most alone, I believe it is when we are far from it. Angels surround and Christ upholds. He dries the tears and lifts the hands. He strengthens the shoulders and makes us more. I believe in Him. And I believe Him. I know that as I face a gritty moment in life, I have heavenly helpers cheering for me again. They see my heavy heart. They see my resolve, my weakness, and my faith urging me forward. They believe in me. I believe in me. I believe that Jesus Christ loves me. I know that His love brought him lower than I will ever know, suffering in ways I cannot imagine. And He did it for me. He did it so that when I am tired, weak, alone, or hurt, He will know how to give me energy, strength, love, and healing. He lives. The Great Redeemer lives. He sends us each other, He sends us hope. My grit runs pretty deep, several generations even, but it isn't that grit alone that will carry me. My resolve to hold on to my own strength won't get me far, but my resolve to never, ever let go of my Savior will carry me forever.

So thanks Meme. Thanks Nanny-No. Thanks Grandmother Sullins. I'll keep running.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Changing Lanes

Plans are funny things.

Trust me, I've had alot of them lately. . . . but I'm having a hard time laughing sometimes.

Remember this post? The Master Gardener has been doing some trimming around these parts. We are not perfect, but I feel like we try really hard to do our best. We obey. We fall short. We keep trying. And along the way we pray. We have fasted and prayed for some certain things to work out. But we also prayed that our faith would increase if they didn't.

They didn't.

So now we face some difficult lane changes. Our family has to be apart for a few months until we can get on our feet. The kids are excited for our awesome "vacation" and we plan on lots of skype. But, I don't know if I really understand yet how hard it is going to be. And still I feel peace. I feel good. I hug Daman more and am trying to make these next two weeks as happy and wonderful as I can, building up lots of good memories and energy to prepare for some scratchy transitions. Everything will be fine. We'll have wonderful adventures with Grandma and Daman will get all the chicken pot pies he can handle. The Lord will bless us with peace, energy, and success. I know it. He understands the long runs, we sometimes can only deal with the sprinting. But, a good set of sprints makes us stronger and faster, and I trust that the Lord will take this challenging turn and work it for our good, in ways that I cannot even imagine. Plans change, but He does not. He loves us. He loves my children. He hears my prayers, and He hears yours.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Trusting in the Lord

. . . with all my heart

is sometimes really really hard.

I know God lives. I know He loves. And I know He tells the truth. I hope anyone reading this knows that too. Trust on.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What If Wednesday. . . .

What if I colored my hair purple, ignored the dishes, let my children eat/watch/wear/do whatever they want, threw every dietary goal out the window and just sat in the sun reading Jane Austen, Annie Dillard, Ivan Doig, and Dave Barry all day???

I don't know either.

But I probably won't try.

I'd have to do my roots twice a month.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I'm getting a new elephant.

So, you know the twenty pound elephant I've been chewing on? I'm spitting it out.

Here's the thing--my scale is determined to drive me to cliffs of insanity and perhaps off them. I promise. This is what happens: I step on the scale, it blinks at me and gives me a number. I don't like that number very much, so I yell at it and step off. Then, I give it another try, carefully positioning my feet in exactly the same place. It blinks. Magic! I've lost four pounds! So, did I? Did I gain? Did I lose? Does this scale think it is doing me a favor by lying to me? Don't toy with me little machine, I have a hammer and a destructive four year old and I know how to use both of them. . . sort of.

I've been rethinking that perhaps judging my success by those numbers alone is a little unwise. What other measures are there? There are several, but none of them are as quick as weighing in every week and seeing the numbers shrink. Unless of course you have a psychotic scale that delights in toying with your mind. (I am really taking this personally)

I am revamping.

I have never run for a time goal. I finish, and I am content. But, I think I've become enough of a runner to set some higher, faster goals. But to get faster, I will have to get lighter. See how that works? If I reach my speed goals, I am pretty sure my weight goals will follow. And if I follow my plan and zip up those elusive khaki pants I've had in my closet for at least a year, I bet any normal, non-sadistic scale will tell me what I want to hear.

It will still take one bite at a time. It will take more patience to believe my body is changing without weighing myself in every week. I will try on the pants every month. I will run three miles in 27 minutes. I will do a 10K in under 56 minutes. To some of you, these might seem paltry, sluggish goals. To you, I say, with all my heart. . . please go eat a plate of brownies and take a nap.

To everyone else trying to nibble away at an elephant, I say throw your scale out the window too. Celebrate that there are so many other things that matter about you. It isn't all about the number. It isn't all about the plan. Choose what you want to measure. Pants, push-ups, pace, or performance. Just make it something that won't beat you down or drive you crazy. That defeats the whole purpose.

(As a note, I recognize that weight is really important, and my weekly dates with the scale helped me shed more than fifty pounds, so if it is working for you, awesome. Weight can be a great gauge, it just isn't the only one.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Gardening Thoughts. . . that aren't really about gardening.

I've been thinking a lot about bushes today.

Not sure if anyone else has realized this, but sometimes we just don't get what we want.

Sometimes jobs don't come through, teams don't win, children don't sleep, and plans don't work. And sometimes we can take that in stride with an uplifted chin and a resolute faith. But sometimes our chin trembles and our fists are uplifted instead, shaking angrily and asking, "WHY??"

I've heard of a currant bush who had that question. There is a story you can find here about a man who was doing some major landscaping and found a currant bush that had been left unattended and wild. It had become more of a tree than a bush, and produced no fruit at all. Out came the clippers. Soon, it was small and bare and as the gardener stepped back he seemed to hear it whimper and ask why--why would you cut me when everything was going so well? Here was his answer:

"Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn't intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and some day, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, 'Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down, for caring enough about me to hurt me. Thank you, Mr. Gardener."
(Hugh B. Brown, Council of the Twelve Apostles, LDS Church)

I think we have all been currant bushes from time to time. I've had painful cuts in the past, but I have come to say thank you for each one of them. I have come to know and trust the Lord in a very deep way. It is not easy to be trimmed. It is not easy to be changed. But, I am learning that if I want to become the woman and disciple the Lord knows I can become, I must hand over the gardening tools. I must trust. I must trust that every trim is made with love. Every upheaval is done with purpose. Every change is for the better. Paul tells us, "In every thing give thanks." When he says every thing, I think he means just that. It gives me great comfort to know that the Gardener doing the pruning is motivated absolutely by love. My chest might tighten, my will might wobble, but I love the Lord and I trust in His love for me. Thank you Mr. Gardener, thank you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What If Wednesday. . . .

What if I could move on as quickly as my kids?

I've been making some real progress lately in patience, acceptance, and general unflappability. Today was a two-steps-back kind of day. Maybe spending too long happily observing turtles and copulating frogs did something to my brain. "Look Mom--there is a baby on her mommy's back!" Yep. You got it Isaac. Isn't that cute?

I digress.

Too much screaming in the van. Too much carrying Emma while pushing Lucy in the stroller. Too little food. And Isaac just would not let go of Lucy's bike ribbon. She screamed, I suggested she ask nicely. She screamed "Pleeeeeezzz!" He smiled. I stopped the car and hollered, "Isaac, LET GO OF HER BIKE! HOW MANY TIMES DOES SHE HAVE TO ASK YOU?" The ribbon was dropped and I could tell that my shot had landed. He sunk back in his seat, a little wounded. I apologized, and said I'd clean the toilet when I got home (that is our new immediate consequence for yelling or hurting. . . we have a very clean toilet)

Things were tense for awhile. Then, he made a funny face at Lucy. She laughed. He laughed. I laughed. And he moved on. Giggling ensued and we were shortly jamming out to High School Musical again (don't judge). I thought to myself, what if I could let go that quickly? If Daman impatiently barked at me like that, I would cower, sulk, and scoot away from him for at least two days. I would accept his apology with a shrug and fester for awhile before moving on. He's never yelled at me, but I have certainly done my fair share of festering. What if I just moved on? What if I accepted apologies, shrugged off sharpness, and moved on with love and laughter. Sometimes when my kids are stubborn and tell me they hate church, I wonder what Christ could have meant when He describes children as meek, humble, and submissive. But, then I get it. Then I screw up and when I apologize at bedtime, I get a loving dismissal, a shrug, and a "Don't worry about it Mom, just try harder tomorrow." That has happened.

I will Isaac. Thanks for your patience.

Boy, have I got a lot to learn.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Backyards and Front Porches

The other day at the gym I pulled a trainer aside for a quick check-in. I've never trained with her before, but she's always working with someone when I'm exercising so we've become friends that smile each other even though we don't know each other's name. I still don't know her name. I told her I wanted to lose about 20 pounds, and she gave me this shocked look and then a quick scan up and down. "Are you sure?" she said. "Where?" Then I hugged her and had her write down her name so I could name my next child after her. Well, I should have.

I get this reaction sometimes when I mention that I want to lose weight. Being tall covereth a multitude of sins. I could have stripped down and shown her my thighs in more detail, but I didn't think we were really that close yet. She may not see it, but I do, and I know where I want to go. Still, it is a nice reminder that though I am striving to be better, I'm not too shabby right now.

I have no idea who said it first, I just know it wasn't me, but it has been said by someone--that we often compare our backyards with everyone else's front porches. I feel the twenty pounds I'd like to shed, others see me as fit and tall. We look at everyone else in the room, certain that they have it all figured it out because that is what we see. We hear their answers in Sunday school, we see their children at their best, and we read their blogs about how much they love their children and all the wonderful food they cook/crafts they make/problems they solve.

But that is their front porch. And everyone has a backyard. I'll demonstrate:

My Front Porch:
-I have a gift for teaching
-I can come up with a fun story on the spot
-I am great at creating food from practically bare shelves and a sparse refrigerator
-I love my husband, my children, Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, and a good novel

My Backyard:
-I bite my nails and pick at my toenails
-I like People magazine and Project Runway
-I often don't want to come up with a fun story on the spot
-I am terrible at returning phone calls
-I yell at my kids sometimes
-I let them watch one movie a day
-I have found a way to go to the grocery store by myself just so I can buy a chocolate croissant and scarf it down before I get home
. . . . and I could go on.

My guess is, were we architects, our backyards would be bigger than our front porches--if we were the one designing it. There is so much good in each of us, but we often stare out the backyard and only see everything we can do better. Meanwhile, there is a front porch full of wonderful things that everyone else sees, loves, and appreciates. I am determined to spend more time on the front porch. Sure, I have bad habits, weaknesses, and flaws. And sure, it looks like everyone else has it all sorted out. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they have backyards too. I don't let that diminish them, why should I let it diminish me. None of us have much of an idea what is really in anyone's lives and hearts. We just love and accept and hope for the best. If I can do that for others, I can certainly do it for myself. And I intend to try.

So, go have a seat on your front porch for awhile. I'll ignore your backyard if you'll ignore mine.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

One Bite at a Time.

I've got this big elephant staring me n the face. Okay, it isn't that big. It only weighs about 22 pounds, but sometimes it feels totally insurmountable. It is me. Well, it is the extra me that has been creeping up in these last few months. And I don't like it. The thing I really don't like is that I've kicked this elephant out before.

I've lost sixty pounds. Problem is, a few of them have found me again. Last summer I found a wonderful groove and lost the last 15 pounds I thought I never would. And then. . . I freaked. Suddenly, I was on the brink of not trying to lose weight anymore, and I've never been there. I've always been trying to lose weight. So, suddenly I was trim and strong, and I was getting looks from guys at the gym, and I got really scared of that. So, I ate. And I ate some more. And over the last 9 months, I've successfully buried myself again, hidden behind extra weight and comfortable insecurities. And now I am far away from that brink and planted firmly on a slippery slope that could lead me back where I was eight years and fifty pounds ago. No way.

But, it feels so hard. It feels so impossible. It feels so. . . . slow. But, I know how to do this. I've done it before! And so, I'll start chewing the elephant. One bite, one day, one best effort at a time. Funny thing is, I look at pictures of me last summer and I realize that I was pretty hot, but at the time, all I saw was how much hotter I could be if only. . . . I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in that boat, I think that is more of a cruise ship full of people who look in the mirror and go straight to their triceps, hips, waist, you name it. Now I know that I looked good. I'll get there again. I'll come close, and I won't run away. I'll get the looks and I won't get scared. I'll buy the clothes, I'll look in the mirror, and I'll smile. And along the way I'll smile too. And I'll keep you posted.

I won't share my plan here, because everyone has their own method. The main idea? Eat less. Move more. And be patient. I'll try every day. I'll weigh every week. And this elephant will slowly disappear. And in 15 weeks when I board a cruise ship, I'll have disappeared a little too. Poor Mickey won't be able to keep his eyes off me. Daman will have to keep a very close eye on me. . . though my plan is to make that much easier for him.