“Even at the peak of our training when mileage builds and our bodies are experiencing heightened fatigue, we still should feel an underlying sense of satisfaction as we know the hard work we are putting in is a self-chosen and joyful attempt to reach our goal.”
Jess Movold, Running Coach
Prayer over the Offerings, January 1, Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God
O God, who in your kindness begin all good things
and bring them to fulfillment,
grant to us, who find joy in the Solemnity of the holy Mother of God,
that, just as we glory in the beginnings of your grace,
so one day we may rejoice in its completion.
Through Christ our Lord.
After I had my three children, I lost myself. I also wasn’t a believer in anything at the time. I had left God several years before that at the cemetery after my grandmother’s funeral. I wasn’t angry, but I was at the beginning of what would be a long journey.
In the moment that nanny died, a tiger tail butterfly flew past me and hovered for several minutes. It wouldn’t leave me. And it stayed with me until I was able to gather some air in my lungs and breathe at a somewhat normal rate. I had just gotten married. Life was supposed to be perfect. But all did not go as planned. In one fell swoop, I married the love of my life and lost the other.
I wasn’t mad at God, I was just over life. I told Him, “You can go your way and I’ll go mine.” I was not an atheist, I was a drifter. And I let God sit in His corner of heaven while I bulldozed my way through the next five years of my life.
My journey back to the God of my past did not begin with a religious experience, it began with a run. A childhood friend of mine had posted on Facebook that she had begun running. Normally, that may have not meant anything. But she had embarked on this journey to change her life. And although I had been physically active all of my life, I had never tried running. I didn’t think I could ever do it and I never had the desire. But seeing her inspired me, and so I reached out to her to ask her lots of questions, then meet up to chat about it over coffee. She gave me tips, a magazine, a running book and some inspirational gloves.
But more than that, she gave me the fuel I needed to get started.
So in 2011, after baby Number 3, I decided to go for it. It started slow. Run to the stop sign. Run to the next block. I started running with a friend at work and then by myself on Saturday mornings. I got better. And within a couple of months I ran my first 5 K. Several months after that, I ran my first half-marathon. I had started writing again, loving again. Miles would pass and I would cry or heal depending on the day.
I never wanted to run a marathon, I just wanted to get better.
When I signed up for the next half-marathon, I didn’t know it would be my last, but it was. We ran and looped around Ft. Lauderdale Beach and I was doing it. I was surviving.
During the last two miles, I noticed a woman who had a picture pinned to her back. In loving memory of... and I started to cry. I knew that my grandmother was there with me. I hung on for the last two miles. I crossed the finish line, and, … I was done.
Meeting my goal of the half-marathon had done two things. I finished a very long race, but I had also finished a very long race. Recovering from the death of the person you love the most is a forever journey. For me, that race solidified the end of pain and the beginning of recovery. And not just from my grandmother’s death.
It is a scary prospect when the ugly monsters of life invade you in ways that you never expected or dreamed of. Our pain manifests in so many different ways. And although running provided the launch I needed into recovery and healing, it was not a sustainable spiritual entity on its own.
The run was over, but there were still miles to go…
And so in your Day 1 journey into this new year, you don’t have to love God right away. Or pick up a bible. Or “find yourself.” Even in the dark hole of the great abyss, find one thing that makes you feel joy, and hold onto it for dear life. It could be weekly trips to the ocean, starting a new book, or joining a community of grieving people who have also lost loved ones. Maybe you always wanted to sew and the thought and prospect of that sends joyful chills down your spine. Maybe it’s just forcing yourself to watch the sunrise everyday, because you know it’s good for you.
Joy is intentional and we have to start somewhere
Joy is a product and function of who we are and what we know. And joy was built into us by God Himself, who has shown me that even in pain I can feel joy, as insane and difficult as that may sound.
So in this series of new beginnings, let’s not put too much pressure on ourselves. Let’s take each day as it comes, good, bad or lack thereof.
But today, let’s choose one thing that brings us joy.