Fading without Fireworks

It has been a long while since I have posted anything. Lately, my life has flashed back and forth from nothing and and everything, skipping the in-between, and the in-between was what I meant to write about in this blog. The average things in life, like my plants, and my running and my cultural run-ins. Perhaps at the 7th month mark of being here things just started to seem normal again. Even the language frustrations follow a new pattern these days. If I’m not understood, or don’t understand the first time, I can simply ask for a repeat or explain again, with different words or structure or conjugation. I get it right eventually, me and the native smile congenially, and get on with our way. Yet at the very moment when things begin to have a feel of normalcy, the school year ends. My work slows down, the pace of the city changes from hectic student life to confused tourist life. The sun decides to show its face and warm the chilly stones of this tan and gray town.

Summer still feels far away, although we’ve bumped into June. It doesn’t feel like the end of anything yet, like a drawn out movie with no climax. The credits roll and you sit awkwardly waiting for the punchline. But my watch reads: 6-03, 10:04:55. I’m on vacation because I get a week long vacation at the end of the school year. I took my Spanish exam last week and stopped having class. We had a banquet to celebrate the end of the year and say farewell to students who are leaving. The facts add up to tell me 8 months have passed since I stepped off the plane in Madrid. I speak conversational Spanish. My friends are taking exams. Time has passed. I have changed, in ways I didn’t expect at all. The end of this year is a fading without fireworks. After all the ups and downs of a year in a new country, all the ruckus and fuss, this end feels eerily silent. So I will gather my things and walk out of the cinema, into the sun for the summer, and start again in the fall, all over again.

Game Over

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Well, it seems as though attempt one is terminated. We will try again. Mold won the day. Of course, rain won winter here in Spain. After it raining everyday since January (an exaggeration of maybe 4 days without rain) the sun is finally out. So round 2 here I come.

The Briarpatch Gospel: Fearlessly Following Jesus into the Thorny Places

The Briarpatch Gospel    Shayne Wheeler was my youth pastor before he left to plant All Souls Fellowship in Decatur, GA—a church which I joined a few years later my freshman year of college. After a collective 10 (?) years, I am no stranger to his stories and teachings. And yet, despite the familiarity, The Briarpatch Gospel’s woven words brought true conviction, and a reminder of the deep affection of God. The message is clear, If we claim to follow Jesus, our path leads straight into the midst of the shadows and prickly places of our lives and the lives of others. Of course, we are not alone, though it may be terribly difficult not to feel like that sometimes. Going into the “briarpatch” would be devastating and impossible, except it comes with Christ. It comes with his strength, with his promises, and his love. The Briarpatch Gospel walks right up to those issues that are complicated and painful for the Church, her congregants, those outside and those unsure. It walks into them with rolled up sleeves and a soapy rag called Jesus.
You could get through the book quickly. It is very readable, filled with humor, anecdotes and layman’s language, but I wouldn’t suggest flying through it. Let it challenge you. Let it change your lifestyle and your worldview. Let it encourage you because “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NIV)

Go Long

“Mind over matter,” Sophie repeated. It was still in the first week of training for our half marathon that’s coming up next week. It certainly didn’t feel like mind over matter. It felt like my heart was more than a little upset that it had to do more than usual and my legs were feigning ignorance. “What is this running you speak of?”, they seemed to ask. My running buddies were encouraging and supportive but that wasn’t enough to make up for my serious lack of running over the previous 3 months. They had been running – a lot – and I couldn’t take it. But I couldn’t quit. I signed up for the half, there was no way I could back out now. I would just walk/run. This long distance stuff was shaking my pride. I’m a good sprinter, I’m a good 1-miler. But 5 was killing me, and so was being beat by my running buddies. So I started running by myself, like I used to do – before Spain, before training. Granted, in the past I ran because I’m like a border collie and I have to get some energy out everyday, and because it helped me pray and think through the muck and joy of life. Now, those things were still happening, I just had to do them longer. In this lonesome manner, I continued my run/walks, adding distance every weekend. Then came an 8 miler. I’ve never run 8 miles. I’ve hiked over 10 in a day. I walk everywhere everyday because I live in Europe, but I’ve never run 8. “It’s ok,” I consoled myself, “walk if you have to. Runner’sWorld says it’s ok. Better than injuring yourself…”. The sense of dread was greater than any previous run. The looming exhaustion and duration had me bad tempered and sighing. So I started with a shuffle. One foot in front of the other. Repeat. In the cold and the fear I managed a jog. My audiobook is a wonderful work of non-fiction, and I found the heavy themes and steady rhythm sink down to my toes. I found a peaceful pace beyond my original shuffling. Around mile 2, something unenergetic but sure said, “I’m not stopping”. And I didn’t. I didn’t want to walk, I didn’t want to stop. I just wanted to keep jogging along like Forrest Gump.

Was it “mind over matter”? Was it my training the previous month-the build? Was it my slow start? My sister-in-law is always gently reminding me to pace myself in my runs. Did it finally happen? I don’t know. I changed the title of this post. It started out “Learning to Run Long Distance”, but I changed it to “Go Long” because when I hit mile 2 and realized I wasn’t going to stop it didn’t feel like learning. It felt like the breeze that catches your kite to make it soar. It felt like I finally found the light switch in the dark room. I’m still learning to push myself. I still look gloomily at the cold and rainy outside when it’s time for my run, but as I put one foot in front of the other no dread accompanies me. It falls off with my pounding feet.