Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Twiggy & Tall

Twiggy and tall.

Those are the words that typically describe great runners.  These are not adjectives that describe me.  On a good day (and if I’m standing on my tip-toes) I make 5 feet, 2 inches on a measuring stick, but although I’m short in stature, when it comes to running, I’m tall on determination.

I figured that would be enough when I walked onto the field the first day of practice at the division one University I attended after graduating from high-school.  The crew of tall and twiggy runners decked out in University gear gave me the “up/down” look and I could just imagine what they saw.  A naive little freckle-faced girl wearing her old Alma Matter sweats (as if that were cool when you’re with the BIG dogs!!) bouncing up and down, ready to roll.  Suddenly I felt even SHORTER than 5’2’’ and wondered if it would be awkward if I quit before I started.  I loved to run and was able to keep up (most days!) with my varsity squad at the old stompin’ grounds so I figured it couldn’t be much harder, right? OH, SO WRONG.

Hacking up a lung, wheezing like an old foggie (do people even use that term anymore!?) and DYING were just a few of the ways to describe how I both looked and felt as my new teammates and I hit mile five in our first day of practice (yes, I said FIVE!).  The stunning view of Lake Michigan that we had raced past at mile three was just a distant memory (whatever happened to a nice JOG pace, people?!).  

The blur of trees, highways and people were making my stomach churn and now a steep incline of a bridge loomed ahead and I was ready to collapse and cry as my chins screamed for mercy and the slope got steeper.  I couldn’t go on!  I was just about to quit right there, in the heart of downtown Milwaukee while my new (soon to be EX?) teammates sped on by!  They could call me a coward, I didn’t care.  I was comfortable in my high-school legacy (granted, a legacy no one ever heard of...but STILL!).  I could not be pushed to these new limits of pain and suffering one minute or one mile more.

Well, I thought all these things but didn’t actually stop...or even slow down much.  Yes, I was the slowest and THE LAST that day by the time we finished our ten mile run (which I discovered could be expected almost daily....still not sure why when our races were only a little over TWO miles!!).  But I finished.  And I realized something afterwards I lay sprawled in the grass, panting like a little pathetic puppy.  My new teammates had set a new standard for me.  I didn’t think I could run ten miles that fast (and didn’t really want to think about doing it again anytime soon), but I did.  I had been content in my old high-school victories but now realized they were nothing compared to what could be accomplished in the future, IF I didn’t give up.

Although I don’t still race across the countryside with my fellow UW-M runners, I still am running a race. [Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1-3]  Just like on that first day of practice in college (a.k.a. day of HELL), I’m pretty lucky to still be surrounded by people that continually raise the bar for me.  They show me that I shouldn’t be content with the past or even the way I am today because God has more...in the best of ways.

I have incredible family, friends, mentors and even a spouse (I’m talking to you, dear--you can stop hyperventilating in shock now!) that encourage me to pick up the pace and stop being satisfied with the victories of yesterday when God has change and new plans on the horizon for us.  A perfect example of this is the way my husband has quietly modeled contentment in all things while I have been modeling complaining in most things!! [I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Phil. 4:10-13]  

I had assumed he was just as frustrated with me that we are “stuck” in a two-bedroom home with our fifth child coming soon; after all, that’s what a reasonable person SHOULD feel, right?  Don't get me wrong, I didn’t complain OUT LOUD most of the time (how spiritual of me, right?) but in my heart, I had the outlook of Eeyore the donkey (yes, I had to Google the spelling of that!). 

Well, my husband came along in the midst of my (secret) grumbling and showed me I could pick up the pace and run the race a little bit better.  He didn’t preach or lecture, he just kept being thankful for our home.  He complimented how clean it was (that was a RARE day...I’m thinking the children were all gone if that miracle happened!), he praised the layout of the house and how it’s perfect for a family with little kids (feel free to contact our Realtor if interested, ha!!) and all of this from a sincere heart of peace and contentment.

At first I felt like quitting.  I can’t live up to that kind of standard!  I wanted to be a coward and stay in my comfortableness of a complaining heart.  But I didn’t.  I don’t think I’m the best at being grateful yet, but I haven’t quit either!  I’m still running the race and now, thanks to a fellow teammate, I’m reaching some new personal highs!

In fact, the rest of the story from my season running on my college team turned out pretty cool too.  One day our coach called a short, freckle-faced girl out from a cluster of her twiggy and tall teammates.  I followed him down the hall of the sport building to his office, curious as to why he’d want to meet with me.  Afterall, although I wasn’t finishing dead last anymore, I still was by NO means the best or even among the top five on the team.

“I like your spirit.”  He plopped down behind a metal desk and I stood there, still confused.  “You bring something like...I don’t know...joy or something to this team.  We need that.  I’d like to make you a captain.”  

I looked around the room, wondering if anyone with captain potential had followed us in.  Hmm...that’s odd, it seemed he was talking to...ME!?  I smiled as I considered this: so the girl that started out as on the team as a coward had become a captain.  What didn’t kill me made me stronger and that was a lesson I would never forget.

I’m still learning that lesson today as my fellow Christ-follower teammates run beside me and pick up the pace, sometimes making me very uncomfortable, but ultimately showing me I can do more and be more with God’s strength than I had ever known.

Twiggy and tall aren’t the only adjectives that describe great runners.  Short and determined are some good words too!

1 comment:

angela said...

so well written, tara- you are so good at pairing a good truth with an interesting story and making that truth come to life! i have no doubt that someday your stories will be read as part of sermons, at conferences and in books full of encouragement to others. i praise God for pairing such an awesome gift with such a beautiful person!! ♥♥♥