A Precious Experience

This week the weather turned hot and I had two nagging blisters on my toes. Suffice it to say, my runs were practically non-existent. I tried going out early on Wednesday to beat the heat, but ended up doing a run/walk because my blisters hurt.

Cutting myself some slack, I decided to rest my body and prepare for a nice long run today. I set my alarm for 6:00 a.m., figuring I needed to get out early to fit in two hours of running before the heat caught up with me. I laid out my clothes, found some sunscreen to apply in the morning, bandaged up one big toe for blister prevention, and settled into bed to read for a bit before sleep.

Having not set an alarm for several weeks, my mind started racing after I read for nearly an hour, then finally turned off the light. “I need to get to sleep, my alarm goes off in 6 hours!” my mind told me. “I’m not going to have enough energy to run 13.1 miles if I only get 5 hours of sleep!” it taunted later.

The past couple months I’ve been sleeping quite well. After the trauma of returning from our overseas trip and battling the insomnia induced anxiety for weeks and weeks, I’d accepted my situation and rested in God’s faithfulness. Last night, I took a deep breath and prayed for calm and comfort.

Then I remembered why I run.

I don’t run to cross something off my list or achieve a goal I set for myself.

I love my long runs because I get to spend two hours alone with God. I pray, meditate on God’s love, ask for strength, and enjoy the companionable silence of His presence.

This prayerful, contemplative time with God isn’t dependent on achieving a specific emotional or physical state. Sometimes my runs hurt and I struggle through the miles, other times I feel euphoric, like I could run forever. Either way, and in all the many types of runs in between, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is with me. Simply soaking in the moment and relying on God’s provision for the next step, the next breath, the next moment, is a precious experience.

I peacefully surrendered to the fact that I would feel tired on my run, but that was okay. I didn’t have to run a half marathon distance or hit a certain pace. Those goals are fun to set and shoot for, but they aren’t the true reason I run.

For the first hour of running today, I listened to a book study on Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today by John W. Kleinig. I’m about half way through the 32 sessions that ponder this book that I’ve come to cherish. Pastor Rhode leads his study group through the book slowly and carefully. I’ve loved listening to a session daily since starting this practice on Easter.

Today’s section of the book discussed how the Psalms are wonderful meditations on God’s love and plan for us. They noted many more Psalms are focused on laments, pain and struggle, than on joy and celebration. It’s easy to praise God when we’re feeling contented and hopeful. It’s much harder to acknowledge God’s faithfulness when we hurt and struggle.

I broke into a big smile as this passage was recounted: “The righteous do not know their own way; they do not see where they are going; they travel on an unseen journey with an unseen guide. But the Lord knows their way; invisibly He leads them step-by-step along their way with Him. As they meditate on His World each morning and evening, they discover their way through life, the unseen way in which they travel, like pilgrims to a holy place…” (pg 135).

In little ways, this uncertain, unknowing way of life plays itself out while I run. I don’t know what route I’m going to take exactly, deciding along the way which turns and paths to take. I don’t know what thoughts and feelings will occur to me, what songs I’ll listen to or what moments of inspiration may or may not strike.

There’s so much I don’t know, so I trust that the Lord knows the way. And he faithfully does.


A Deep Dive into Our Founding Fathers

Sienna is currently in her bedroom working on a Latin assignment. On a Sunday. Without being prompted. I’m so tickled by this development. While this time of shutdown has been challenging in ways, I’ve been blown away by the good qualities growing in our family, especially the kids. Sienna and Mateo have been diligent about their school work and are taking greater responsibility for completing their work each day.

As a family, the slower pace of life has given us time and space to linger with thoughts and follow our curiosities. One fun way to indulge this urge is to take a “deep dive” into a topic together. Sienna is studying the Revolutionary War and our Founding Fathers and Mothers right now. She loves history and storytelling, so our family conversations are peppered with stories of the battles and the characters (real and fictional) that she’s recently read. On a walk one afternoon she narrated to me the story of Johnny Tremain for nearly a half hour! I’d never normally have that long an attention span to listen to a retelling of a story.

So that we could better engage with Sienna’s historical accounts, Teo and I read Who Was Alexander Hamilton? during our bedtime readings in early April. It was helpful to remind myself of the struggles between the northern and southern states as they formed our Constitution and figured out how to govern a new nation, especially as Sienna continued her study of the Constitutional Convention.

Typically I’ll listen to Broadway musicals after seeing the show on stage. But, all this information about Alexander Hamilton made me curious to hear the Hamilton musical songs. I played a couple for the kids while we hung out Saturday afternoon, then today I ran for over an hour to the music of Hamilton. So fun! Having the basic biographical info about Alexander Hamilton fresh in mind from my recent reading with Teo made the musical so easy to follow!

I’m in the middle of reading a very interesting Bill Bryson book called At Home: A Short History of Private Life which covers a very wide variety of topics. Today’s section detailed the architectural significance of Monticello and Mount Vernon, the plantation homes of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, respectively. Sienna was supposed to visit both of these historical homes during her class visit to Williamsburg and the surrounding ares this past month. Unfortunately the trip was cancelled. Her class spent the last week of March doing research projects on the areas they had planned to visit including online virtual tours of Colonial Williamsburg and these Presidential homes. Having just been to Paris, she was obsessed with Monticello because of it’s French influence. She showed me the immense canopies over the bed and asked if she could have one for her room!

There are an endless number of topics or areas of study you could take a deep dive into as a family, especially during this time of quarantine. Getting everyone involved in exploring a topic and learning together as a family is such a joy!


There to See It.

Sitting in the chair in my bedroom is often where I’ll retreat to read. Now that I’m exclusively working from home, it’s where I’ll go to work when the rest of the family is using the living room.  During this quarantine, I’ve discovered a new activity to participate in from my cozy reading corner: watching the kids play together.  Last week they created an elaborate story where they were shepherds; the lamb stuffed animals and large stick (which I assume was a staff) gave it away. 

Since they’ve been at Cambridge, Sienna often makes up stories where she reenacts historical eras.  Last year she was constantly pretending to be medieval characters.  This year she (and her little brother who will pretty much play anything she tells him to) frequently pretend to be colonists.  As she’s been re-reading many of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books recently, they have also created frontier story-lines.  When they gather up dolls, stuffed animals, blankets, and assorted home goods and head to the backyard, you can pretty much bet they’ll be involved in their make-believe world for a few hours. 

When I crack open the sliding glass door in our bedroom, I’ll catch some of their dialogue.  I always grin to myself when I hear them start a sentence with, “Why don’t we pretend that…” or “Okay, now you…” as their imaginative world unfolds.  If you ask Teo, he’ll say he doesn’t have much of an imagination because he’s comparing himself to Sienna.  Her imagination is truly remarkable and she often initiates the story-line of their games.  But, I have seen him engage and contribute more as he’s gotten older and more confident.  

When conflict arises (I mean, they’re siblings, it has to happen), Sienna typically prevails as Teo will relent because he just wants to play with her so much.  But, I’ve even seen that start to balance out a bit more, especially now that we’re quarantined.  If Sienna takes a stand and Teo decides to go play something else, she’s without a playmate!  They’ve both made reconciliation attempts more quickly in this safer-at-home environment. 

I’ve also enjoyed watching them individually during this long period of cozy time at home.  Yesterday, while on the phone with my sister for a couple hours, I watched Teo kicking soccer goals in the backyard.  One of the zip-ties broke and the goal target panel started to gape on one side.  He concentrated on trying to fix the zip-tie for several minutes.  I considered going to help him, but then I remembered something I’d read years ago about mothers and sons.  Boys need to be able to figure things out themselves, it does a lot for their confidence and self-concept.  So, I watched and waited to see if he either figured it out, gave up, or sought help.  He stuck with it for a long time.  Way longer than I would have!  But, eventually he went and found Dennis and they decided to remove the goal targets from the goal.

Sienna has been working on a painting for the past week, as they’ve been on spring break.  She sets up at the patio table which is under a gazebo, so she has been painting rain or shine.  One afternoon I watched her paint as she narrated a story.  I couldn’t hear her, but I assume she was either pretending to be an important painter, or narrating a story of Peter Pan, Wendy, John and Michael, since they are the subject of her painting.  Watching her lost in a story of her own making brings me such joy!

Right now, I’m sitting in my bedroom chair working on my computer and watching Sienna, Mateo and Dennis play football.  Currently, Sienna is quarterback and throwing the ball to the guys while they take turns defending against each other.  Dennis does not take it easy on Teo!  They play hard and crash into the turf frequently.  One end of our yard has a built in fire pit made of stone pavers.  I cringe when I watch Teo jump for balls just inches away from the bricks!  But, he’s pretty sure-footed and hasn’t injured himself yet, so I say little prayers of protection and try to only occasionally shout reminders to be careful.  

This time of quarantine has brought a lot of special moments of connection to our lives.  Slowing way down allows for the time and space to linger in conversation and let days unfold gently and calmly.  Watching my kids play, learn, giggle, grow, try new things, fight, reconcile, and explore the world has been my new favorite pastime.  Like just now, Sienna spiked a football for probably the first time in her life. The look of exhilaration on her face was priceless!  I’m so grateful I was there to see it.