Sunday, June 22, 2014

I run because I'm happy. . .I run because I'm free

Monday was the first official day of summer and my birthday and it was my best birthday yet. I planned to enjoy myself by celebrating the simple but beautiful things in life. I woke up to an arrangement of flowers from BJ, a note of love, a keurig and a home-made fruit salad.
 I enjoyed my breakfast on the back porch while Molly snuck in some time to play with Anna Cate's guitar in her high heels.

Both girls had swim practice and then we headed to Marian's for brunch. 

 They were treated to summer gifts, which included a beautiful book called GRATEFUL, which Anna Cate read to us.

 And my birthday present to myself was a long run in the battlefield, made possible by Marian who watched the girls for me.
I grew up in the country where I felt like I did not have the opportunities my children have. . .like swim team. Therefor, it is not lost on me that what I treat myself to on the day I could do anything (well most of anything) I want is enjoy something I did have growing up . . .long roads in the countryside.  On these jaunts, there is nothing but the countryside, my thoughts on life, spiritual understandings and an appreciation for the blessings of my life which I pause to celebrate on my birthday.

The reason we have such expanses of nature in the midst of suburban sprawl and icky strip malls is the historical preservation of the Civil War battlefields.  I chose to run on my birthday in the steps of the Battle of Fredericksburg, but in past years I've run in others nearby. 
I stop and take pictures, stretch, breath and focus on all the metaphors in life I can as a way of seeing the connections in this one, wild and precious life. It is almost like Pandora knows these longs runs are times for me to reflect because the music provides such rich connections to my thoughts and directives for life.

I just keep thinking about how grateful I am for the experiences, family and health.  Most of all I focus on the clarity of perspective age has bestowed on me, which seems most clear as I run in these open spaces.  I think about how much I appreciate this time and space that has been available to me my whole life. Like the good witch tells Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, "you had it all along."
I ended up running/jogging/walking 8 and it felt so good. 
I listened to songs on a black spiritual station I've discovered, where I find the soul of a joy and faith in these songs inspiring.  With each step and deep breath, I'm reminded of the faith journey of my own soul and all the friends and loved ones I've had along the way. I am not sure what I believe about theology but I'm convinced of the presence of the Holy Spirit. 
I feel most closely connected to the center of this spirit as I breath in the beauty of simple scenes of nature.  Running and focusing on my blessings reminds me as the song did that His eye is on the sparrow. . so why should I be discouraged?

These songs come on the "Oh Happy Day" station. . . and, that it was.
This journey, both the run and my life,  beholds so much beauty. Of course there are hills and times I have to stop and walk, yet like the disappointments, the scenes and stories take my breath away. I'm continually thankful for what I've had all along.
To be admitted to Nature's hearth costs nothing. . .you have only to push aside the curtain. 
~Henry David Thoreau

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Finding Gratitude over Pride

This summer, Molly starts swim team.  I could focus on how proud I am of her for knowing how to swim and having the confidence to go out and do it, being the youngest member of the team. But more than anything, I'm grateful for the opportunities my kids have. 
I teach in a school with a lot of students who don't seem to have the parental involvement and/or resources that I think are crucial to raising kids. While I I find myself frustrated with parents' lack of attention to the things that I value, my own parents raised me with enough compassion to realize that I shouldn't criticize unless "I've walked in another's shoes." So as my own children get older, in addition to feeling proud of Anna Cate and Molly, I'm really grateful for the leaders, coaches and teachers who help us raise them to participate in activities like sports, music and church. 

Several weeks ago, Anna Cate ran in a fun run at another Elementary School. She was sick on Friday but pushed through to run because her own elementary gym teacher would be there cheering for her.

Anna Cate finished her winter swim league and placed in every event. 

Her favorite stroke is the butterfly and I'm so proud her.
She has great coaches who want her to have fun as much as they care about learning the strokes. She gets a great work out twice a week while BJ and I get to work out, too. Nearby, there is another program, which is a lot more intense and competitive, and I will have to figure out the right time to step it up.
The girls are the reason we go to church on Wednesday night.  I always find God there, and it is fabulous, authentic fellowship but is such a hassle to get to church by 5:15 on a Wednesday night for dinner and the children's choir practice at 6. The girls love it, though, and the season culminated in a really fun musical.

As we were waiting anxiously for summer to begin, we've enjoyed some evenings at the pool, including a play date with our best friends.

But I think it is fair to say, we were ready for  summer as we enjoyed the traditions of winding down a school year. Anna Cate had an amazing 2nd grade experience; her teacher was fabulous, kind, firm, consistent and a great teacher. Anna Cate is reading a chapter book a week and I'm so thankful she has had such a good experience in the classroom, and I'm quite proud of her reading. But I realize, it is not just her…it's that great teacher!!

An "end of the year" tradition is the sleepover at Miss Diana's. She goes "all out" throughout the year to make fun memories for the children for whom she cares, but the Spring sleepover are over the top in the  most fantastic way. Each year, there is a theme. . . kept a secret. This year, Molly forgot her pillow and at 4'o clock when I stopped by Diana's to say, "have a good time" to Molly, I offered to come back to bring the pillow. Diana said, "you can't come --- I'm not giving you a sneak peek." 

Anna Cate enjoyed a Pirate's Paradise, a Hawaiian luau, a cowboy hoe-down, and Molly's first experience was a beach party last year, and last weekend Molly and her friends were treated to a camp out.

CampOut from Sarah King on Vimeo.

The next day, my best friend Norah took the girls to a missions day at church where they did a series of good things, including taking potted plants to a group home.

Recently, in Molly's prayers, she says, "God, thank you for helping others and teaching us to help people." I think she embodies what I'm trying to say and to live ---- focus on being grateful for the experiences and the people who make them possible.

 All that we behold is full of blessings. ~William Wordsworth


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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Update & Revelations on My Yoga Challenge

There is NOTHING wrong with your body, but there is a lot wrong with the messages which try to CONVINCE you otherwise. -Rae Smith

Thank you for all the comments, both written and spoken, about my blog on body image. Since I seem to hit a nerve, I thought I'd write about it a little more and give an update on my yoga intention to accept, let go and have faith, and share the revelation I've received in my April yoga challenge.

You know what would be really nice? If after committing myself to yoga, I'd look sort of like this:

Which is sort like my thinking that if I were a "real" runner, I  should look like this:

Or those of us that do crossfit  and swing enough kettle bells, we should look like this,

Just go to google and click images, and type up yoga, running, crossfit and these are the bodies you see. It would be so nice if I ran enough, did yoga enough, ate clean enough, whatever enough, I would achieve the beauty both my ego and social media has made me think is what I should look like, BUT what message would that be sending to my precious girls?  That the goal is to look a certain way? That yoga or running or moving or eating clean is in vain if I look like I do?  How would that help me on this road to self acceptance? It wouldn't. I'm beginning to realize that spiritual truth on health is not skin deep, and that is worth passing along much more so than the image my ego desires.

In my yoga challenge to accept what is, let go of what was and have faith in what is to come I'm learning to mainly keep focusing on acceptance, which is a much more evolved and valuable truth than achieving a beautiful body.  To hell with what GOOGLE or my silly ego thinks I should look like.

This is yoga.
 And Running looks like this as I run in up and down the streets of Diana's neighborhood waiting for Anna Cate's bus.

 And my crossfit workouts now involve working out around the kids. I got a kettle bell for Christmas; I use the girls for my squats and have figured out there is a lot you can do with body weight (both mine and the girls'), a 35# kettbell and 10# dumbbells. I'm considering what my next piece of equipment should be, so I'm open for suggestions. My best friend thinks it should be a weight vest; I told her that I'm carrying around extra weight already.
  My cool downs involve the kids.
 Yesterday, on Memorial Day, I completed, on my own, in the community playground a scaled version of a "hero" workout, a crossfit WOD (workout of the day) in honor of a fallen soldier. The workout is Run 1 mile, 100 pullups, 200 pushups and 300 airsquats, Run 1 mile with a weighted vest. I did it without a vest and used a band to pullups on a monkey bar. While I looked like an idiot I'm sure, I'm happy that while going to a Crossfit box (gym) only worked out for a season of my life, the workouts and what I learned are lasting.
Sort of like the yogic intentions to accept, let go and have faith have lasting legitmacy for me in my quest for health. Speaking of health, I got a juicer for Mother's Day and think I may have found the holy grail of wellness.

Maybe if I juice enough I'll look like…Just kidding. This is what juicing looks like (Anna Cate took this picture of me at a winery.) Wine is juice, I'm sure of it.

Say bye-bye to feeling bad about your looks.
Are you ready to stop colluding with a culture that makes so many of us feel physically inadequate? Say goodbye to your inner critic, and take this pledge to be kinder to yourself and others. 

This is a call to arms. A call to be gentle, to be forgiving, to be generous with yourself. The next time you look into the mirror, try to let go of the story line that says you're too fat or too sallow, too ashy or too old, your eyes are too small or your nose too big; just look into the mirror and see your face. When the criticism drops away, what you will see then is just you, without judgment, and that is the first step toward transforming your experience of the world.” 

― Oprah Winfrey 02 12

Friday, April 25, 2014

Receiving God, The Ecumenical Way

I grew up saying The Apostles Creed as a child, and the parts of it that stick out to me. . .
I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. . . .
I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints
The forgiveness of sins:
The resurrection of the body:And the life everlasting. 

Easter 2014

I had intended to celebrate Easter differently.  In January, when I heard that my dear friend Dorinda would be getting confirmed and celebrating her first mass at Easter, I jumped at the chance to honor her pilgrimage as well as introduce my children to a different experience.  

We have a wonderful church here in Fredericksburg, but a hole I find in my parenting and faith rearing of Anna Cate and Molly is that I think I don't provide my girls with enough diverse experiences. I don't ever want my kids to think God is only in one church, in a certain denomination or even in a certain faith.  I have felt God in so many different mediums and I know that if I were in Egypt, I would be leaning into Him as I planted my face toward Mecca, if I were in India, I would sit in a hot ashram searching for Her healing breath,  and if I were in Japan, I'd drag my kids to a pagoda for a glimpse or feel of this divine spirit.

Growing up, my Dad (and Mom because she happily goes anywhere Daddy wants to go) took us to all kinds of churches; my dad is a fan of religious people on pilgrimages to find God. I think it is safe to say that Daddy gets bored very easily so he needs all kinds of things to entertain him and to fulfill him, spiritually. He may not agree with the path, the theology, or the doctrines but he loves witnessing the journey of others. A few weeks ago, he shared in our Sunday School class that he spends much time with his friends the Seventh Day Adventist even though he rejects many of their beliefs; his simple, yet profound conclusion was, "it is hard to resist being loved."

 I inherited many of his quirks, including this desire to experience God with others. . .or maybe it is that these others help me experience and feel God.   

Among the many churches  I went to as a child, on bike rides across Iowa, we went to many Catholic masses. His best friend, Chuck Offenburger, is a devout Catholic. I am comfortable in the differences between  Protestant and Catholics, and it's okay that I never quite know when to sit down and when to stand up, if I should kneel, or that I feel a little out of place when I just walk by the holy water, or confused when the priest starts talking during the Lord's prayer. I don't mind not going down front for communion; I get almost as much out of watching Catholics take communion.

So back to Dorinda's confirmation. I wanted to take the kids and experience Easter with her and her fiancé Geoff. . . until I found out that adults get confirmed on Saturday night at a vigil that starts at dark. She said that when you go to vigil, you are "good for the week."

I thought "will I just not go to church on Sunday?" But I decided we still need to celebrate the resurrection on Sunday morning, so when BJ asked what we are going to do, I said, "we are going to Molly and Doug Bates it -- we are going to do it all: Easter vigil in DC, Easter service at our church in Fredericksburg and then back up for brunch."

Our Easter weekend. . .

It began on Wednesday when we went to Passover.  Anna Cate had a small speaking part.
 We honored the roots of our teacher in this service of fellowship and communion, as well as fulfilling my desire to teach tradition and community to my children. . .although Molly and I did not partake of the lamb. I have some limits on my desire to experience all things.

My Catholic friends told me how long the vigil was, and I thought we would be "churched out" by Sunday so I didn't press the issue of our family going to church on Good Friday. (I'm not exactly like my Dad) So we skipped Good Friday service, and I went to hot yoga -- I find God in all kinds of ways.

Saturday morning the girls and I helped decorate our sanctuary with flowers.

Saturday evening, we enjoyed a lovely dinner in the city and a beautiful service for the Easter vigil.

Not only did BJ and I love being with Dorinda, her family and friends, the service and setting was so enchanting and spiritual for us.

The church is across from the capitol building and I think is as old, yet both are quite young in comparison to the service and ritual we were attending. The words were moving, the liturgy was meaningful and the cantor sounded better than Enya.

The architecture and decor set a serene and awe-inspiring backdrop while the liturgy and songs created a familiar rhythm in the midst of our unfamiliarity.   After those who were joining became confirmed, the congregation of Catholics took Mass, which seems to an outsider as the most important part of the service.  I think the reason that our Catholic friends went  to church on Saturday and felt that they were covered for the week, not needing to go on Sunday morning, is that they believe they receive God in the form of communion; it seems to me it is why they go to church. 
It is why I go to church, too. I receive the spirit of God even if I don't partake of communion at a Catholic church,  and I feel the presence of the risen Lord even if I don't believe in the doctrines as literal in any church. 

I see that evidence in my children, too.  When we asked Molly what Easter was about, she said, "God wants us to share our eggs." In the program, there was a list of flowers given in memory or in honor of loved ones. Anna Cate circled her grandmother's name without prompting, even though she never met her; I believe she knows her spirit. My mom thinks Anna Cate embodies Susie's spirt.
O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? 
- Corinthians 15:15

 We didn't do Easter differently, after all. The girls were with their friends in their church.

After church, we were treated an amazing brunch at Dorinda and Geoff's new home. 

Fellowship, food, drinks, Easter Egg hunting and new friends.

As I reflect on what I want to pass on to my children about the value of finding God with others, I think   this devotional my Dad wrote during Holy Week exemplifies the search. He presented this during a Tenebrae service he put together over 20 years ago using hymns and scriptures. It  has been performed in the church I grew up in since I was in high school, and I had a part in it for several years; when I was in college, I brought it to the Presbyterian church I attended in Mount Vernon, Iowa.  He presented this devotional where he focused on something he has learned from his Catholic friends: the dear spirit of Mary. Here are his words and his devotional:

For a quarter of a century a group of believers have gathered to retell the story of the final days and death of Jesus of Nazareth.  We tell the story not in our own words, but in the ancient words of the Gospel account and in familiar phrases and melodies of the hymns of our faith and tradition.

This cast remains rather stable—many of you have done your part for years and years.  As we have spoken and listened to the words, we have come to see ourselves in the monstrous outrage—we see ourselves sleeping, betraying, mocking, participating in and even pronouncing injustice.  And so an awful truth has been revealed to us.  We do not engage in the debate whether it was the Romans or the Jews who killed Jesus.  We have learned WE killed him—the villains of the story were just like us.

But there is an innocent one we remember and I raise her up in this devotional—Mary, His mother.  Perhaps you would say the Catholics make too much of her but surely we Protestants make way too little.  I will speak later of this but for now will say that our narrative tonight as for all previous years does not dwell in the cosmic but in the human.  Easter Sunday brings us the metaphysical, tonight we deal with the physical: the agony, blood, pain, loneliness: all unfathomable.

And we also deal with a mother’s love and her courageous devotion which brought her unspeakable grief.

She would have been in her mid to late 40’s. She was probably a widow.  She would have known before hand what she would witness as she watched her son die on the cross.  “You can fake that you care; you cannot fake that you are there.”

She saw her son’s hands and feet nailed to wood.  She saw him between 2 thieves.  She saw him mocked.  She saw Romans gamble for his robe he wore in her home.  She saw him gasping for air as his diaphragm was no longer able to force his lungs to inhale. She saw a spear go into his side.  She saw his legs broken.  This was her child.

Tonight I have added a song to the narrative—Ava Maria.  It is sung tonight by Vickie Edwards in Latin.  The English words are this:
Hail Mary, full of grace, Blessed art though among women, and Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Are those words familiar?  They are to Catholics.  They are to me for these are the “Hail Maries” of the Holy Rosary.

The Rosary dates back centuries but for me goes back to Kirk Iverson’s funeral when the priest asked all of us: Catholic, Protestants, and Infidels to say the Rosary because Kirk loved it so.  As I said those words over and over, a strange peace came over me.  Mrs. Barr taught me how to do the Rosary on my own.  And so I began, not as regularly as would have blessed me, but often I would say them.  I prayed them at Mrs. Barr’s bed as she lay dying.  I prayed them as Offenburger was through bone marrow transplant.  I prayed them when Douglas was in Iraq.  I prayed them before my bladder treatments.  I could tell you of experience I have had which I consider miraculous.  What I say to you now is out of your comfort zone I know but I will say it—I have felt the presence of Mary herself.

Here is the Rosary itself. 5 groups of 10 beads and each of these 50 call for a Hail Mary.  One also says 5 Lord’s Prayers, an apostles creed and a special prayer.  This particular Rosary was given me by Father Jim O’Conner who gave Chuck one also.  Both were blessed by Father Jim and both were dipped in Hassle’s Creek for an additional blessing.

I want you to hear a decade of Hail Mary’s.  It’s not in your tradition but repetition is—You Baptist sing praise music which repeats the same words.  You Church of Christ people repeat the 5 points of salvation every Sunday. You Methodist sing the doxology every Sunday. No one gets tired of saying the Pledge of allegiance to our flag.   Repetition brings us peace.  It may also bring us something else.

Here do 10 Hail Mary’s.

So tonight as in years’ past we grieve over our brother’s death.   Tonight, as in past years, we grieve over our part in it.  May tonight we remember Mary’s presence at the cross…..  And may we open to her presence right now.

 Our Easter weekend and this devotional testify to the power and blessings of living an ecumenical life.  People like Daddy and me get so much out of "the church' and her people because we don't believe that there is one right way. We open ourselves up to all the beautiful ways to experience God in many forms, including the presence Mary. I hope I do as good a job teaching my girls to search and find peace, prayer, love, faith and community with God's people and their rituals as my parents have done for me. . . .even if I can't quite bring myself to take them to church at 8 on a Saturday night.

A Baha'i Prayer for my dear friend, Dorinda, and my children. . .and for all of us in our search to find God.
O my God!  O my God!  Unite the hearts of Thy servants, and reveal to them Thy great purpose.  Leave them not to themselves, but guide their steps by the light of Thy knowledge, and cheer their hearts by Thy love.  Verily, Thou art their Helper and their Lord. -Bahá’u’lláh
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I love my family, deep thoughts, pure feelings and a good time making lasting memories with people I love. I procrastinate, but love to plan. I'm insecure about my body but confident about my heart and mind. I grew up in a small town, but feel like I'm a citizen of the world. Being a working mother was not in my life plan, but neither was being poor so I'm using this blog to help me focus on the precious time I do have with my family. My husband is the most competent person I know, and in many ways, he is more motherly to our precious girls than I am, since I have the job of being the disciplinarian, more like my Dad. I love to work out, write, eat, drink wine, entertain, decorate and think.

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