Thursday, April 19, 2012

Be Still

Anyone who knows me well, knows that being STILL is not in my character.  I can hardly sit for 5 minutes without my leg starting to anxiously bounce.  Recently my four year old excitedly said to me, "Mommy, look, I can bounce my leg just like you do!"  Great...just what I wanted my daughter to notice and then model!  

It's funny how God repeatedly hones in on our weaknesses, bringing opportunity after opportunity to break us of what haunts us the most.  Actually, I just said that "it's funny".  When I am in the midst of one of His attempts to break me of my inability to be still and know He is my God; to relinquish control, trust Him and cast all of my anxieties and fears upon Him, the last thing I find is humor in it.  Looking back on those times I can laugh, for it never ceases to amaze me at how my Creator really does know me inside and out, so perfectly!  I will focus on those times because looking back gives me strength to trust in the trials of today.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am a control freak.  I would much rather try and figure out how to do something myself than let anyone do it for me.  I want all of the control, whether that be in the little things (like my obsession with doing the laundry "my way") or the big things like my health, children, or relationships.  Control is my nemesis.  We have a love-hate relationship.  Control keeps me from being still.  Ever.  Yet my God keeps on working on me.  And I know that is out of love for His child.  Out of hating to see those chains that constrict me from being all that I can be in this world.  He is answering my prayers when I cry out to Him to release me from my anxieties and fears.  He whispers to me, and often shouts to me, "Be still and know I am God."

Twelve years ago I had my first 'breaking' when I decided it was time to have a child.  I had suffered from stage 4 endometriosis from the age of 20, having had two surgeries and four years of Lupron shots.  So it came as no surprise to anyone (but me, of course) that my cycles were irregular and pregnancy just was not happening without extra assistance.  This drove me insane.  I obsessively read every thing I could find online about getting pregnant.  If there was a supplement out there, or a fertility diet to be followed, an acupuncturist or chiropractor insisting they could help, I did it.  No baby.  My first IVF cycle I was an anxious mess.  Even on the day of transfer I was far from relaxed.  I remember the doctor actually saying to me, "Relax and just be still."  I laid there willing that embryo to stick, listening to my crazy meditation CD where you visualize pregnancy and talk to the embryo.  I was far from still; far from turning it over to God.  I WAS IN CONTROL!  Or so I thought.  Well, that cycle failed.  Looking back, I can see why.  First off, what would I have learned from that if I had gotten pregnant when I dictated it to happen?!  I would have catapulted myself into a pregnancy with my attitude that I could control it all.  Weight gain, bleeding, stretch marks, labor, you name it.  God, He had other plans.  "....plans to prosper (me) and not to harm (me), plans to give (me) hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

9 and a half years ago I had my first tangible experience with God stilling my soul and allowing me to cast my anxieties upon Him and relinquish control.  I went through that IVF cycle with a peace that I had never experienced.  To this day God was not only answering my prayers, but the prayers of many others, for that was not ME that brought the peace, that's for sure.  I stayed off the internet that entire cycle and prayed every day as I got ready for work, had injections and blood-work and all else that my day would entail.  I can still remember sitting in my little bathroom, blow drying my hair, reading a devotional a friend had given me and marveling at how odd this feeling was; peace.  It was foreign to me and I questioned whether or not I was loosing my mind.  It was so more familiar to me to be anxious all of the time, to busy myself with controlling my life, than to just "let go and let God."  

I did get pregnant that cycle.  And if I hadn't, I actually think I would have been okay with it, because throughout the entire thing, right up until the day of my pregnancy test, I was at peace with allowing it to be in God's hands.  Actually, both my eldest daughter and my son are of that cycle.  Baby number two was my frozen embryo that we conceived two years later (yes, technically speaking, my kids are twins as far as modern science is concerned!).  I wish I could say that from that cycle on, I have been peacefully turning IT ALL over to God.  That I have now mastered "Be[ing] still and know[ing] that I am God."  Psalm 46:10.  

The breaking and making from my Lord has occurred again and again since then.  Sometimes in small ways, like with colic-ally children, broken furnaces, and viruses ruining plans.  And other times, with much more pain and angst entering my world; cancer, loss, death, unemployment.  

Currently, as I write, my husband has been unemployed for a year.  I NEVER thought I would be here, a year later, having more days where I am still than anxious.  I started off this journey a year ago having full blown panic attacks.  But my God loves me and knows me best.  He continues to break me in order to make me the woman He wants me to be.  He stills my soul and reminds me, over and over that He is enough and all I need is to "Be still and know I am God."

With that said, I will now go do my workout, spend the day cleaning out my mother-in-law's house in preparation for her move (for my abilities to NOT be still and move with some maniac speed have been called upon), cook and clean for a party at my home tomorrow night, do 5+ loads of laundry and pass out at some ridiculous hour, I am sure!  But through it all, my soul will remain still today.  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Endurance for the Race

Barring really horrific weather, every Sunday morning, after I get my kids' breakfast made and clothes laid out for church, I run.  I run not for the miles or the exercise, although a few hundred calories burned always balances out my weekend indulgences (at least I tell myself that), but I run for the sanity.  I run to clear my head, to think and pray.  I run to cry, laugh, blast music on my I Pod or be silent and just listen.  Some mornings I do all of the talking to God,  or just to myself.  Other days I just absorb the world around me, marveling at how God's beauty is everywhere, ever so perfectly changing with the seasons. 

I wasn't always this type of a runner.  I picked up running again after my third child was born out of a mere desire to loose the baby weight.  I hated every step I took, loathing the burn in my legs and lungs.  I used to tell myself that I could not do more than 2 miles without stopping, and ONLY on a treadmill.  Then 2 miles became a 5K and it was within my comfort zone, so I pushed it a little further.  My runner friends pulled me (literally!) off of the treadmill that I had become so accustomed to and dragged me along with them outside on longer runs.  I would whine and tell them I just wasn't cut out to run.  I hated it.  My knees hurt.  I couldn't do it.  They would just laugh and tell me to trust them, I could do it.   They would bring me on runs where we would get lost in conversation, moaning to each other that we couldn't make it back to our starting point yet knowing we had no choice, so together we would make it, cheering each other on.    Every time I made it another mile without stopping, I silently cried with joy, in awe at what my body could do.   Could it be possible that I was becoming a runner?!  Was trusting in a training schedule all you really needed to do; that and a good pair of running sneakers?!  

Two years ago I ran my first half marathon.  Yup, the same woman who said I could not run 2 miles without stopping and was NOT a runner.  Hated it.  Knees hurt.  Couldn't do it.  Ironically, as I look back, it was that same year that God started changing not only my physical endurance, but my endurance for life.  The fall before I decided I would even give 13.1 miles a shot, my mom slipped into a dark depression.  My mom, who had always been the one, in my eyes, to have such spiritual strength and faith in God, could not get out of bed.  Being the oldest of four and a Type A, take-charge, control freak, I jumped right into trying to "fix" this crisis.  This was the first tremor of trial my family had really had to face, the first quake that life doesn't always go as planned.  Yes, my brother's divorce from his high school sweetheart was rough, but we moved on.  Tragedy had never really fallen upon the Geng family, and we lived in ignorant bliss that it never would.  But to see mom not being able to cope, or even get out of bed for that matter?!  Shaky ground, when I had gone 35 years depending on my parents to be my rock.  Not to mention, I could not understand how if you had such a strong faith, how could you get so depressed?  Couldn't you just pray your way out of that?!  We were a good Christian family.  Wasn't this kind of depression for the lost and faithless?   Now, I am no stranger to depression and anxiety.  Zoloft had kept me even-keeled for years, but I surely did not have the faith my mom had, so that was understandable to me.  Hmm...little did I know God had a lot of work to do in me to change that viewpoint on faith!

Anyway, back to the year God started training me for life.  That Christmas season mom's depression had gotten so out of control that we decided, as a family, that we had no choice but to check her into a hospital, for the first time.  Anyone who has ever had to face depression on this level knows how ugly and gruesome it is, whether you are the one caught in its ugly grip or the one watching someone you love suffer in its hideous chains.  My mom just seemed so broken, and with that, I felt so broken; our family was broken.  

It was right about that time that my running started to shift and settle for me.  I started to wake up craving a run, needing the physical and emotional outlet, wanting to tie my running shoes and see just what I could accomplish on the pavement that day.  I started to talk to God on my runs.  My prayers were not just confined to words lifted up as I drifted off to sleep or blessings said with my own little family before meals.  He started to call to me and meet me on that pavement that spring, placing a longing within me to get out and run.

That spring, as I trained for my first half marathon, slowly my body began to endure the miles, my lungs and legs could take me further and faster and I was DOING IT!  I will never forget the day that I went to go for a run one Sunday (back then more because it was just one of the days I could schedule in the miles) when I found my I Pod dead.  I panicked.  I couldn't run.  I couldn't do it without music!  Eminem, Black Eyed Peas, JZ....they all fueled my body and made me run!  I sat there, unsure of what to do.  Something (Someone!) whispered to me to get my shoes on and just go.  I told myself that I would just do a few miles and then come home.  In the silence I had no idea what to do; I could not "Be still"!  But just as I was about to turn around, I started praying.  I started talking to God in a way that I never really had before.  And when I was out of words, I was silent.  I listened and looked around at what surrounded me.  I had never really noticed how pretty my little corner of the world is, how blessed I was to have such a gorgeous trail to run on right by my home!  I ran 8 miles that day.  With no music.  Yup, same woman who had told herself that she could not do it.  I started, just started to think that maybe, just maybe I was not broken and that everything was going to be okay.  Mom was coming out of her depression.  We had endured it.  That alone drove my feet to move.

The day that I ran without music strengthened me.  If I could run outside of the comfort zone I had created, I could cross that finish line come May.  I was in training and I was enduring.  Something had shifted in my world, and the first trial of many over the past few years shook me just enough to start to see, feel and hear God, even if it was just with my running shoes on.  

I know you are all wondering where I am going with this.  In my head I see all of the connections between the events in my life, all leading me to sit here and write this blog, tell my little story and share how the Lord has created an endurance in me that far exceeds my ability to run miles.  But the story cannot be told in one sitting.  For I am still in training.  Training for life.  Training for a Christ-filled life.  Two years ago I was not where I am today and God, I pray I am so much further along in my endurance and strength for life every year that passes.  You see, I didn't realize that year that I started my first half marathon training that God would start to break me in order to make me the woman He wanted me to be.   That He would meet me on those running trails and shift me into a life where I would let go of control, little by little, and trust the process of training; let go of the "I can't"'s that I so comfortably would spew out when I really didn't want to push myself or endure.

Running has become the perfect analogy for me in my relationship with Christ.  Today, I crave my runs just like I crave time alone with God.  I have confidence in my ability to put on a pair of sneakers and run anywhere, in any kind of weather, in the same way that I have confidence in God's presence in my life.  I get cranky when it has been too long between mind-clearing runs, and get cranky when it has been too long between my time spent with the Lord.  Don't get me wrong.  I have yet to run more than a half marathon and I still have the voice telling me "I can't", just the same as I have many, many days when life is just downright ugly and hard and the same voice says, "I can't".  I have days when I do not feel the energy I need to get out and run, and days when I do not have the energy to even meet up with God.  But I am stronger.  I can endure, and I will endure.  I just have to train and trust that with each day, with each run, I am one step closer to crossing that finish line with ease.  I just have to put on my running shoes and hit the pavement and God will take care of the rest.  I make the choice; I will endure.

"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

Friday, April 13, 2012

Taking a Leap

I am doing it, finally.  Blogging.  Putting my thoughts and words "out there" for more to read other than my very close friends and family.  I don't know whether I should thank my cheer team, who have not ceased to encourage me to WRITE, or curse them.  But more than those telling me to get this going already, I cannot deny God's nudges, whispers, and SHOUTS to put it all out there; let the world know who I am and what drives, fuels and sustains me.

For those of you who don't know me, I look forward to getting to know you through this odd cyber world that defines so many relationships in this modern age.  For those of you who do, well, you already know that I am an all over the place, passionate, sometimes scatter-brained, laugh one minute, cry the next type of a gal, so you will follow along with this blog and get some extra insight into those crazy ups and downs of the life of Jen! And hey, you were the ones who told me to do this in the first place, so here we go!

Life is not easy.  It is downright painful at times.  In the past few years I have had more moments when I want to RUN away, yet I never could figure out where to run to, so instead I stick around and keep on keeping on.         In doing that, I have discovered a depth to life that I never thought I could experience.  I feel more than I have ever felt.  With intense sadness also comes intense joy, yet it takes seeking that joy out.  Trusting in the promises God has made to reveal our joy in Him.  Trusting that the tears will pass and laughter will come.  Trusting that my soul will grow through it all.  

For tonight, I will end there.  My stories to share will piece it all together, one at a time.  And thrown in, you may even get some random recipes, crafting or gardening tips.  It's what us girls do; tell our stories, share our secrets, cry together and laugh together,  making this life a little easier to bear and enjoy.  Praise God for it all.