the race that is set before me

it has finally decided to rain here in northern california, and this means that i am a happy girl. rain is not essential for my happiness, of course, and i dearly love sunshine…but still, rain rarely fails to put a grin on my face. and so, this afternoon, i’m sitting in front of a fire (directly in front, so probably my poor family is not feeling much of its heat =P ), with a cup of coffee and some shortbread with lemon curd–my version of lemon bars, since i have yet to make a successful batch of the real kind. outside of the window, there’s a bit of a drizzle, and the fence and the trees are dark with moisture and altogether, it’s a lovely day. i’m enjoying the rain.

i usually enjoy being out in the rain nearly as much or more than being inside while it’s raining. i especially love running in the rain. there’s something about the smells, and the freshness of the air, the water on my face and the way my hair feels, whipping on my face…coming home to a hot shower…not sure what it is, but rainy weather is running weather to me. but yesterday i had my fill and more. i didn’t realize there was a flash flood advisory when i decided to run up a mountain. i did know it was not merely raining, it was storming. but still…i had four hill miles to run, and since the regional park where i usually go on saturdays promised to be flowing with mud, i geared up and set off for the Big Hill which i have been planning on running–and somehow managing not to run–for several weeks now. it’s the longest, steepest hill around and though i hear that it will be my best coach, i am not looking forward to making its better acquaintance in the upcoming weeks.

it only took about half a mile for me to be almost completely drenched, lactic acid to build up in my muscles that refused to warm up (i opted for board shorts in hopes that they wouldn’t get as waterlogged, but the fabric still soaked and stuck to my legs, which kept them cold), and for me to begin wondering why i ever attempted this. and from then on, it was a pretty miserable run. hills and i do not get along well, and this was (or felt like) a monster hill. it did. not. end.

it did, actually. most things do. but not until i’d stopped several times, walked a few times, and nearly turned back a dozen times. down hill was better, and i didn’t have to stop, but i could feel my shins start aching and since i was no longer focused on just trying to take one more step, i was at liberty to notice that where, at half a mile, i was almost completely soaked, now i was more thoroughly soaked than i remember ever having been in my life. and extremely cold. and whereas going uphill, the river of water on the sidewalk was running in the opposite direction that i was trying to (making it that much more difficult, mentally and visually, at least), now it felt like it was trying to make me slip so that it could carry me along down with it.

i finally got back to the car, toweled off and shed my dripping sweatshirt and drove home, arriving in a state of teeth-chattering and the repeated remark, ‘oooooooh, goodness…’ because it was that cold. i tell you. a hot shower, a hot mocha, and a dry pair of jeans never felt so good.

i think that was probably the hardest run i’ve done yet. hopefully it was a combination of factors, including cold and rain and intimidation, because hills i will just need to learn to deal with. but the fact of the matter is, those four hill miles took far, far more out of me than the six flat miles i ran on wednesday.  i’m enjoying not moving, here in front of the fire, but when i do i can feel that i’m sore all over. the muscles next to my shins, especially. and it recalled a spurgeon reading from the end of january, one that caught my attention because of its focus.

january 31/evening

‘then ahimaaz ran by the way of the plain, and overran cushi’

2 samuel 18:23

running is not everything, there is much in the way which we select: a swift foot over hill and down dale will not keep pace with a slower traveller upon level ground. how is it with my spiritual journey, am i labouring up the hill of my own works and down the ravines of my own humiliations and resolutions, or do i run by the plain way of ‘believe and live’? how blessed is it to wait upon the Lord by faith! the soul runs without weariness, and walks without fainting, in the way of believing. Christ Jesus is the way of life, and He is a plain way, a pleasant way, a way suitable for the tottering feet and feeble knees of trembling sinners: am i found in this way, or am i hunting after another track such as priestcraft or metaphysics may promise me? i read of the way of holiness, that the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein: have i been delivered from proud reason and been brought as a little child to rest in Jesus’ love and blood? if so, by God’s grace, i shall outrun the strongest runner who chooses any other path. this truth i may remember to my profit in my daily cares and needs. it will be my wisest course to go at once to my God, and not to wander in a roundabout manner to this friend and that. He knows my wants and can relieve them, to whom should i repair but to Himself by the direct appeal of prayer, and the plain argument of the promise. ‘straightforward makes the best runner.’ i will not parley with the servants, but hasten to their Master.

in reading this passage, it strikes me that if men vie with one another in common matters, and one outruns the other, i ought to be in solemn earnestness so to run that i may obtain. Lord, help me to gird up the loins of my mind, and may i press forward towards the mark for the prize of my high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

hills–spiritual or physical–are no joke. it is precious to know that, in Christ, we no longer need to run them. He has gone before and made the paths straight for His fellow heirs…not that these paths will not be difficult. He promises that they will. but they are not impossible. His yoke is still a yoke, and His burden still a burden…but He promises that they are light and easy, in comparison with the demands of the law and our attempts to earn righteousness through works. and so, though i often go off-course, i trust that He will continue to lead me in the flats…and furthermore, that i will learn to love running the flats so much that i will not be tempted to leave them and try again to earn His favor or beat myself up over my failure to live as though i have been redeemed.

unfortunately…the same does not go for the physical race. =P a friend at church today was very seriously advising that i reconsider the half marathon that i chose, because it is a hard one. the hills are long and steep and very hard. and the more i try and fail to run long steep hard hills without feeling like i’m going to die and stopping to walk every so often, the more i question whether this was actually a good decision and whether i might try for a different–and easier–half to begin with. for now, though, my rebellious side is holding out, and i’d like to at least try it. i can always choose to run the seven miles instead, if i just can’t make it thirteen.

and so, though spiritually i will be running flats, or trying to–physically, i’ll still be running hills.

or trying to.

=P

the promise

it is always a bit awkward to write a post after not having written one in months. so much life has happened since i last posted that i cannot help but feel a tug-of-war…should i write about all of those things, the infinite number of significant and mundane happenings that have, even in the comparatively short space of time, shaped me into a different person than i was a few months ago? perhaps, someday, i will. but for now, that task remains daunting. and rather than remain quiet, and let it grow more daunting as more time passes, i have decided to simply absolve myself of the responsibility of catch-up posts and instead remember what this little corner of internet exists to do: serve as a place where i may come to scribble my musings, in hopes that doing so may help me to grow and may edify whoever happens to read them.

and so, i muse and scribble.

this year i have been reading c. h. spurgeon’s ‘morning and evening’ daily devotionals. not consistently, of course…i am also trying, once more, to hold to a read-through-the-bible-in-a-year plan, and i have made that a priority over the devotionals. so, i have already missed several readings and likely will miss many more over the course of the year. and honestly, i’m ok with that. because that’s one of the things that i find so attractive about this little booklet…that it is so approachable, so easy to pick up and profit from, even if i can only pick it up once a week.

i’ve tackled the ambitious and potentially unattainable goal of running a rather mountainous half-marathon in may. i’ve given myself permission to re-evaluate and decide to run only the 7-mile option, should either my abilities or those of my ankle, once sprained and still stubborn, prove insufficient for 13.1. but for now, i am  training as if for the half, which means trying to run hills as often as possible.

today i went to a park near our house, wooded and hilly and beautiful in the slightly frosted mid-morning. there is something about running that i find irresistible. i am not especially good at it. i have had to work hard to be able to run four miles with relative ease, and i am quickly finding that hills are extremely challenging; and not entirely a pleasant one. but there is something very good about running. i’ve found that the time spent alone, with nothing to do but put one foot in front of the next, is a good time to pray. while i’m running, i know just exactly how strong i am…and no matter how far or how fast i run, it is always ‘not very.’ i may be strong enough to run four+ miles, or probably even a bit further…but at some point, my strength ends. and knowing where that strength ends is a tangible way for me to humble myself before God in prayer.

though i don’t recall whether i spent much of my run this morning praying, i do remember that i hit that point of humility. sitting at the kitchen table afterwards, reading my bible as i ate  breakfast, i was exhausted. after reading in genesis and in matthew, i still had half a mugful of yogurt left to consume, so i reached for ‘morning and evening’…and what i read there was so strengthening that i had to share it. hopefully someone else will find it as encouraging as i did.

january 15/morning

‘do as Thou hast said’ ~ 2 samuel 7:25

God’s promises were never meant to be thrown aside as waste paper; He intended that they should be used. God’s gold is not miser’s money, but is minted to be traded with. nothing pleases our Lord better than to see His promises put in circulation; He loves to see His children bring them up to Him, and say, ‘Lord, do as Thou hast said.’ we glorify God when we plead His promises. do you think that God will be any the poorer for giving you the riches He has promised? do you dream that He will be any the less holy for giving holiness to you? do you imagine He will be any the less pure for washing you from your sins? He has said, ‘come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’ faith lays hold upon the promise of pardon, and it does not delay, saying, ‘this is a precious promise, i wonder if it be true?’ but it goes straight to the throne with it, and pleads, “Lord, here is the promise, do as Thou hast said.’ our Lord replies, ‘be it unto thee even as thou wilt.’ when a Christian grasps a promise, if he does not take it to God, he dishonours Him; but when he hastens to the throne of grace, and cries, ‘Lord, i have nothing to recommend me but this, “Thou hast said it”‘; then his desire shall be granted. our heavenly Banker delights to cash His own notes. never let the promise rust. draw the word of promise out of its scabbard, and use it with holy violence. think not that God will be troubled by your importunately reminding Him of His promises. He loves to hear the loud outcries of needy souls. it is His delight to bestow favours. He is more ready to hear than you are to ask. the sun is not weary of shining, nor the fountain of flowing. it is God’s nature to keep His promises; therefore go at once to the throne with, ‘do as Thou hast said.’

i needed to read that today. of all things that i could possibly have read, that was what i needed to read…and of all days i could have possibly picked up that book, i picked it up today. not by chance…by providence. because the God who delights to hear and answer His children’s prayers also delights in faithfully providing to each of us what we need at the exact moment we need it. and for that, i am infinitely thankful.

 ‘i put all my hope in the truth of Your promise
and i steady my heart on the ground of Your goodness
when i’m bowed down with sorrow i will lift up Your name
and the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy
because You are good to me.’

audrey assad.good to me

‘therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.’

hebrews 4:16

run

i’ve had an idea floating around in my head for a couple of years now that it would be cool to write a book in second person. a friend told me i should practice writing in second person with short stories first. i haven’t had the time to devote to writing any short stories, but a little while ago i was fed up with writing essays and reading romantic era literature and i decided to let my creative side loose. all that came was a fragment, but, like with the apple picking and photography, writing it helped to clear my head and rekindle my enthusiasm. and who knows? maybe one day the practice will come in handy.

run

and all the emptiness that has left you numb gathers itself together within you. like a beast caught in a cage it screams to be let out and you know that if you pace this floor for another sleepless night, the wild things will tear your heart to pieces.

so you take the cage into your hands and you run.

you run over the frozen river and beneath the fading frozen moon. you run beyond all imagining and all ability of thought. you run until you come to a place where there are no stars and your breath is torn from you in raging cold gasps, and when at last you collapse in the darkness on the edge of the world, you know that you have found the place where your strength is ended. there you set the wild things free to join their howling voices with the great and howling emptiness all around. 

you kneel where you have fallen and the gravel grinds into your flesh. you do not know how much blood you have lost because at the world’s end all is dark and the color of blood seems to mean nothing. and here in this absolute void of all things, here at the end of yourself, you cry out in a prayer that is made not of words but of pain and searching and fathomless heartbreak.

where

where

where

where

(over the rim of the world, a light begins to spread–or, if not light itself, a shade of black that is  lighter than the infinite void that was before)

where

where….

here.

the light grows, still too dim to be seen as light, only enough to show the color of the blood that is not yours. black ice. red blood. white snow. though the darkness howls in cold and savage billows, your breathing slows and slows and slows…

at last, here on the ice, you slumber.

when you wake, the darkness has been folded up and laid aside and light has spilled over its boundaries.