In many facets of my life, people often ask me how I do what I do. And I get it; my very existence defies the odds, so it's pretty understandable to be shocked that I seem so "normal" in the day-to-day. My response is always the same two-part answer. One: I remember that none of this is actually about me, and I serve an amazing God that I do my best to live for every single day who pulls me through things I never could have imagined. Two: I have the most incredible friends, friends who walk with me, pray with me, pray for me, encourage me, and push me to do things I never believed I was capable of, who refuse to let me give up on the days when I seriously want to, simply because they always saw strength and good in me when I'm too caught up in my failures and shortcomings. This has been dissected many times in the pages of this blog.
What I didn't expect is how much of a gift this would be when I started this journey in exercising. Ya know, considering, none of these friends are even within driving distance right now. Yes, their texts of encouragement have been so sweet and felt so good, but that's not always enough motivation to get me up and moving. And as stupid as it sounds, I didn't really think God would care about how many days a week I walk, or a milestone I reach. I figured it's not really a big deal to anyone but me.
So what's the problem if I didn't go out and walk today? My body was wrecked with pain for most of the day. I didn't know if I'd ever be able to get out of bed, which was frankly my only priority until about 5:00 pm when it actually happened. At first, I wasn't going to walk today, but then I remembered...I remembered how frustrated I felt on Tuesday when I slept all day because of the pain and was forced to take another day off. I didn't want to feel that frustration again. So I put on my shoes, grabbed my earphones and phone, and left.
After hitting 3.14 miles yesterday, my new goal was to make three full laps around the neighborhood, but I didn't even make it down the first stretch of road before I wanted to turn back.
This hurts so bad. I'll never make it through three laps today.
I just want to go back to bed.
Why is this crawling by so much worse than before?
If I make it through one lap, it'll be good enough.
I thought I was moving so much more slowly than I did yesterday. I thought my speed was going to be embarrassing when I sent the screenshot of my walk to my friends who are keeping me accountable. I thought I was just going to have to tell them that the pain was keeping me from moving as well as I normally would. I felt like an idiot. Who was I to think I could do this? I'm fat for a reason. Because moving is hard. My body is fragile. I'm still not well. I'm setting myself up for disappointment.
About the time I reached the last cul-de-sac in the first lap, I thought about my friend JD and a blog post she wrote a few years ago titled "Run By Faith". She had to take her body back after an unexplained sickness left her constantly fatigued and ill for months on end. In that post she writes about one night when she felt too awful to go out and run (and she's one of the most stubborn people I've ever known, so if she was willing to give up for the night, it was BAD), and when she called her best friend/accountability person, they responded "Now that you're sick again, how will you respond, and what will you choose to believe?" And I knew that while the pain was out of my control, whether or not I let it defeat me tonight was all on me.
And then I remembered how she said she listened to worship music on her runs. Up until then, I had been listening to my playlist of songs from the TV show Nashville, because it's just really good music. And because I'd been listening to the same playlist every time, I kept judging how fast I was doing depending on what song I was on when I got to a certain point each night. So I was getting all up in my own head, beating myself up if I thought I wasn't doing well enough, moving fast enough. I decided to see what praise music would do. I turned on the first band I thought of, MercyMe. I only have a few songs from them, but the first two were exactly what I needed.
"Beautiful": "You're beautiful, you're beautiful, you are made for so much more than all of this. You're beautiful, you're beautiful, you are treasured, you are sacred, you are His." I am the Lord's. And more importantly, He is for me. He wants me to be healthy and well and full of life. But He also sees me as beautiful and treasured just as I am.
"Bring the Rain": "I am Yours regardless of the clouds that may loom above because You are much greater than my pain." GOD IS GREATER THAN MY PAIN. I heard that line, and that was the first time I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could make it through the three laps, even if I had to crawl my way to the end.
Somewhere around the halfway point of the second lap (I'm a terrible judge of distance), things started cramping up badly, and the negative thoughts came barreling against my mind.
Ugh, I still have a lap and a half to go. This is taking forever.
My speed average will be shot.
What if I do two laps? Two laps is still good.
God, why am I doing this to myself?
I can't even go two miles without wanting to quit. No wonder I'm fat. I'm so pathetic.
Then as I turned the corner into the third cul-de-sac, I looked up. I'd been staring at the ground for some time, using every ounce of strength I had to will my legs to just...keep...moving. But there at the end of the stretch of road was JD. I saw her clapping her hands, calling to me like you call to a toddler you're trying to get to wobble its way over to you, and I couldn't help but smile. And suddenly, the pain in my left calf wasn't so distracting anymore.
I went around the circle and looked up again...and there was Ryann. Giving the same stubborn, stomp her foot, "you're wrong and I'm going to prove it to you", frustrated only because she loves me look that I've seen countless times in so many different situations. She's always known that I'm capable of so much more than I believe I am.
Every stretch of road, there was another friend. Summer. My cousin Brianna. Jay from England. Emma. Nicole. Ricky. I saw them holding up posters like spectators do for people at races.
I didn't even realize I'd made it to the third lap until I was several houses past it. When I realized it, though, yeah, then I knew I'd make it through three laps even if I collapsed on the porch in exhaustion when I was done.
I thought of another song JD sent me a while back as I rounded the stretch of road at the beginning of the neighborhood, by far the longest stretch of road - "All You've Ever Wanted" by Casting Crowns. I hadn't listened to it in a while, so I decided to turn it on. This is the beginning of the second verse.
I was chasing healing when I'd been made well, I was fighting battles when You conquered hell, living free but from a prison cell. Lord, I lay it down today.
How easily I had forgotten that this whole exercise thing wasn't actually all that much about me, either. It was about showing the enemy that he didn't get to win me. That this pain didn't get to control my life anymore. That God, and His plan for my life, would come out on top because Jesus conquered all the brokenness of this world, chronic pain included, a long time ago. I am already well.
I kept telling myself that over and over again, along with imagining friends standing at the end of each stretch of road, and I stopped thinking almost entirely about how badly my body hurt. As I passed my house on the way to the third cul-de-sac, I thought, "Oh yeah, I'm coming for ya." Before I knew it, the third cul-de-sac was done.
And then, the fourth.
And then I made it to the last one. My house was in sight. I smiled.
And as I walked back up my driveway, I sort of wanted to laugh. Three laps seemed impossible when I started. I lost track of how many times I considered giving up. But there I was. And I didn't care what my speed was, I was going to celebrate that the pain did not win. I met my goal.
Here's how tonight turned out...
I saw the 3.93 miles and I cheered. I saw the 2.92 mph and straight up LAUGHED. That is my second fastest speed since I started this last week. Yet I thought I was going slowly.
Oh and also? An hour and 20 minutes is how long it took for JD to complete 6.2 km, or about 3.85 miles, when she started out...she's my main accountability and a big source of inspiration, and our numbers are pretty much identical. I know that says 1:21, but that's because it gets rounded on this screen; in my history it says 1:20:42. I felt like that was an extra gift just for me.
You know what verse has been in my head all night since I got back inside? Romans 8:37 "No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."