Hanging in my parent’s basement is a calendar. My dad put it there. He uses it to keep track of the many miles he runs each month. The calendar has been blank since April. You see he, the man who has been a healthy runner for as long as I can remember, has become very sick. About 18 months ago he had a non-cancerous brain tumour removed. He miraculously recovered from that and we spent Christmas running together, for the first time. We ran lots of miles, he and I, talked about many significant and insignificant things and I loved (almost) every minute of it. I planned to return to Canada for a bit this summer and continue to run with him as he added miles to the calendar.. but that was not to be.
I remember a little over a year ago, sitting around somewhere and hearing a friend start to plunk out on the guitar that ever familiar chorus of Matt Redman’s Blessed Be Your Name: “You give and take away, You give and take away, My heart will choose to say, Blessed be Your name.” She was happily strumming along and singing it in a way that I could clearly see she wasn’t actually grasping the intensity of those lyrics. I remember thinking: “No no no! Singing about God taking away things should never be done in that key, that quickly, that upbeat-ly.” That’s a hard thing to praise God for. And sadly, during that time of my life, I was never able to sing that song. In fact it got deleted from my playlist.
It’s funny how a song can continue to haunt you.
Fast forward to now and that song is back on the playlist. God didn’t take away what I was afraid He would yet that song still catches me off guard. Am I really able to say Blessed Be Your Name even when/if He takes away something I desperately hope He will not?
This week I’ve been working on being able to sing that and mean it. I think I’m really nearly almost there. That song does come on some mornings and I somewhat flinch but I’m okay with it and I can pray along with it.
There are other songs that keep playing though and I wonder just how many lyrics I’ve sung over the years with a poor understanding of what they actually mean. It’s so easy to get caught up in the catchy beat or a phrase we find is worth writing down and mulling over but to really internalize these lyrics that we sing…to really mean them… that’s a pretty incredible thing.
While I was making breakfast Chris Tomlin’s song Lay Me Down started to play and “It will be my joy to say, Your will, Your way” started to hit me. It sounds so nice and joyful but what happens when His will and His way makes us ever so uncomfortable? What happens when His will and His way plunges us into sadness and grief? What happens when His will and His way seems so opposite to what we think we need to be happy? It’s tough…
So I can quickly press next and get something a little more upbeat or I can turn to the Bible and there.. promises.
He will not leave us, nor forsake us.
He will not give us more than we can handle.
He will provide comfort.
He will be enough.
He will help us be brave and courageous.
He will hold us in His wings and keep us close to Him.
He will make us aware of His steadfast love.
He will continue to be faithful to us.
And He will help us get to the point where we can sing to Him, no matter what happens in our lives: Blessed Be Your Name.
And I’m back! I had an absolutely amazing time in Boracay and think I have now found my new favourite beach. Everything was perfect: white beach, crystal blue water, perfect temperature, lots to do but lots to not-do too, good food, good drinks, good mangos! It was excellent all around.
But now I’m back and fighting off the post-holiday blues. I am also sitting here on the first of April and thinking about how I have a little less than 3 months before summer holidays. How did that happen?!? There is a lot that must get done between now and then and while the easy thing is to just grin and bear it..I really don’t want to just coast along until June.
I found a quote the other day that totally spoke to me. It’s by Shauna Niequist and she says:
“There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming.”
I really like that idea. It’s simple yet deep.
To just focus on becoming what I’m meant to become. To calmly go about my daily tasks and not give in to temptations to either be totally wild or totally comfortable. To accept my circumstances but to work on improving them.
I started thinking about that and what that means to me and what I need to do in order to “become” all I need and should beome. I think a lot of that has to do with finding contentment. I can so easily become sidetracked and lose focus and I don’t want that to happen. So I will work on devoting April to “becoming”.
Becoming more Christ-like in my thoughts, words and actions as I spend more time reading about Jesus and His perfect example.
Becoming more efficient as I try to balance all of the marking, report writing and teaching I have to do.
Becoming a better runner as I finish training and run my first half marathon
Becoming more disciplined as I apply all I’ve been reading about eating clean and make smarter choices.
Becoming more thoughtful as I read more books and watch less shows.
Becoming more creative as I devote time to writing down all the ideas I have swimming in my head.
Becoming more content as I trust God to work out and in all the details of my life that keep me up at night.
Becoming stronger as I work on improving and growing in all of these areas.
And so.. while March ended on a high but relaxed note and April looms ahead with all it’s busyness, I’ll take a deep breath and look it straight in the eye and hopefully I will be a little bit different, a little bit better by the time we get to May.
I had a scripted childhood. My parents wrote us “scripts” for everything.. answering the phone, being introduced to adults, politely declining food at my gramma’s house, what to say to the one parent if I preferred that the other one put me to bed, what to say when someone at a birthday party opened a present I had been dying to have, how to pray before a meal, how to pray before bed, what to say to my friend’s parents after I ate dinner at their house, what to say to an authoritative figure who I believed was wrong (that one is pretty good actually). There were scripts for everything. I can see why my parents did that.. they didn’t want us yelling obscenities into the phone or being rude when we were suddenly in a strange or somewhat demanding situation. They wanted us to be prepared and so they gave us lines to learn and we politely recited them at the right time… most of the time.
That being said, and maybe this is a subconscious rebellion against the scripting of my childhood but I’ve never really been into mantras or key words or special phrases or affirmations. I’m not a huge fan of meaningful inspirational quotes or cutsie sayings. It just seems a little touchy feely and I’d much rather get out there and do something about it than sit around chanting my thoughts. However, I’m starting to think that maybe I should be a little more open-minded because really.. mantras, phrases, motivational quotes, power words.. they are just scripts for grownups. And sometimes.. when I’m standing at the lunch buffet or running around a park at 5 in the morning, it’s nice to know that I’m not going to scream and shout cuss words or curl up along the side of the road in a messy heap of self-loathing.
So what I think I need to do is write a new script.
I started thinking this because up until this point my inner health-related script was more along the lines of: “This is bad but diet starts Monday” or “Ten more minutes on the elliptical and I’m so ordering an extra large pad thai”. Not entirely helpful in the long run. I’m starting to realise how vital it is for me to have my head filled with powerful phrases. No, I’m not running around saying super schmaltzy things.. well not most of the time I’m not, but I do like to have a few significant things going on in there. (insert blonde joke) Seriously, I’m realising how important it is for my brain to have something to revert back to or make sense of or grab onto or play over and over.. especially during the difficult times.
This morning I typed some sort of semi-motivational thing on MFP along the lines of having a week filled with “7 healthy days”. Writing that out ended up helping me say no to a chocolate muffin at 10am because.. well that wouldn’t be a “healthy day” sort of thing. I want 7 healthy ones… (days not muffins). The thing is that it was funny because that little phrase just popped into my head right when I was about to pick up the dangerous treat and made it easier to say no.
It helps to have a few ideas or thoughts or phrases in our heads that we can go to in moments of physical or mental weakness. I find this is especially true when it comes to working out. It is so easy to be too kind or easy on our bodies and let ourselves have undeserved breaks and unearned rest days. It’s easy to justify breaking a run and walking just a little longer because our legs ache or not doing push ups until we collapse because our arms kind of hurt. It’s all too easy to talk ourselves into staying on the couch with blankets because if we go outside our skin might get wet.
During weak moments.. that’s when we need help from powerful words swimming in our brains.
Maybe you like the famous quotes about needing to give 110% or living each day like it was your last (although why would I spend my last day on earth at the gym?) or Philippians 4:13 or “a year from now you’ll wish you had started today” or “that which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” (thank you Nietzsche and Kelly Clarkson) or “I’m gonna show you how great I am”.. or something to the tune of Eye of the Tiger.
Maybe the big flashy quotes don’t do it for you and you go for more mundane things like: “I need to look super hot in July” or “if you run faster then you’ll be able to lie on the living room floor for 5 minutes” or “True happiness is not found in cupcakes” (which I’m still not 100% convinced is true).
Or maybe the workout is taking everything out of you and you can only manage to grunt a few key words, primate style: “Hot” or “Stronger” or “Poison” or “No” or “MUSCLES!!!”
Whatever is going on with you and your workouts and/or food choices.. it’s highly helpful to fill your head with thoughts that get you through the struggles and temptations and back to the good place… the land of 1% semi-skimmed milk and raw honey.
Maybe you are the more abusive type who likes to call yourself a Fatty McLardass as you huff and puff around the block or maybe you take the more loving approach and tell yourself that you’re just running bravely down the path toward Beautiful.. whatever it is.. it’s important what you are.. what I am…what we are telling ourselves. I do believe that a large part of our success depends upon it.
So write a script. Tailor it to fit your needs. You know when you’re at your weakest and you know what you need to hear. Write it down somewhere, memorise it and one day you’ll be happy to have such nice or harsh or “abusive” or “motivational” or just downright inspirational and healthy things popping into your pretty little head.
“Clarity comes to me like this: I need to be living my life in such a way that if I knew my expiration date, I would continue living, just as I am […] I want my normal life to sparkle with the allure of the ordinary and speak to me, just the way it is.” – Kristin Armstrong
“People get from books that idea that if you have married the right person you may expect to go on ‘being in love’ for ever. As a result, when they find they are not, they think this proves they have made a mistake and are entitled for a change – not realising that, when they have changed, the glamour will presently go out of the new love just as it went out of the old one. In this department of life, as in every other, thrills come at the beginning and do not last. The sort of thrill a boy has at the first idea of flying will not go on when he is really learning to fly. The thrill you feel on first seeing some delightful place dies away when you really go to live there. Does this mean it would be better not to learn to fly and not to live in the beautiful place? By no means. In both cases, if you go through with it, the dying away of the first thrill will be compensated for by a quieter and more lasting kind of interest. What is more (and I can hardly find words to tell you how important I think this), it is just the people who are ready to submit to the loss of the thrill and settle down to the sober interest, who are then most likely to meet new thrills in some quite different direction. The man who has learned to fly will suddenly discover music; the man who has settled down to live in the beauty spot will discover gardening.”- C.S. Lewis
As someone who is daydreaming about different spaces and places while consistently trying to seek contentment in my circumstances yet always looking for the next thing to get excited about (an iMac maybe?), I find the idea of submitting to the loss of the thrill and just calming down… is an excellent approach to life.