Boston

My Boston Marathon journey is dear to my heart.  This was a few years ago but when I read the following essay I wrote in the middle of the experience, it brings back all the emotions.  Determination, hard work, happiness, heartache, disappointment, and lessons learned.  I wrote this short essay to Jet Blue in a contest that would give the winner a free entry into the Boston Marathon.  This came about because it was the first time Boston sold out so quickly (within hours!) and a lot of folks missed out-I thought I was one of them:

I don’t even remember when the drive to run Boston started.  It seems like it has always been in my mind and heart since I have been a runner. Running Boston is like running in the Olympics for regular folks.  Qualifying seemed like a dream that was almost too big, yet with enough hard work and determination, could be possible.  

My sister (Jo) finally qualified and after I congratulated her on the phone in January, I was even more determined to run Boston with her.  I had just started an intense training program with the sole goal of qualifying–I needed to run a 3:40. I had my fifth child a few months earlier and during that pregnancy, the goal to get back in shape quickly and qualify for Boston fueled me.  It was always a dream I hoped to accomplish someday but I had been busy having children the past decade without a long enough break to train and qualify.  I have always enjoyed running but now was the time to take it to the next level–the ultimate level.  

So my Boston training began.  It was the hardest training I had ever done.  I was religious about following my training regimen.  In between nursing a new baby and taking care of 5 kids, I made sure I followed the plan.  Day after day, it was so hard!  Most of my training was on the treadmill, it was easier that way with my family and lack of sleep–that way I could get my run in at some point during the day.  I remember over and over the thoughts of wanting to quit, but it wasn’t an option–the thought of qualifying for Boston drove me to finish each and every run.  I was pushing myself harder than I should and looking back, I needed more time to get up to the necessary speed.  But I wanted it so bad!  

That marathon morning in May I was a nervous wreck.  I wanted it desperately and I didn’t know if I could push that hard again if I didn’t make the qualifying time.  I ran the entire marathon with the dream of Boston driving me on through every mile–especially those last six gut-wrenching miles.  As I crossed the finish line, the clock read 3:39.   I qualified!!!! I was so wiped out and in pain–it took a week to get excited about anything, then the thought sunk in that I qualified!  I would run Boston with my sister!  This made my whole summer.  One of my big dreams would be accomplished–I would get to run the ultimate marathon.  

The sad irony of the whole thing…I went to register in October the morning Boston registration opened.  I tried over and over and the site wouldn’t work.  My thought was–it took two months to sell out last year, I can try again later today.  When I went back to register later that day, Boston 2011 sold out!  My heart sunk.  I cried as I told my sister I wouldn’t be running Boston with her.  I couldn’t keep from crying as I told my husband and typing this now, it brings back tears.  I was so disappointed.  On all my runs I had been picturing running through Boston.  My husband told me to run a different marathon–a better one.  To me, there is nothing better than Boston.  It was quite a painful experience, but I will continue in this quest to run Boston.  The disappointment has been fueling me to push harder, farther and faster as I am determined to qualify again.  

I submitted the essay, figuring it was a long shot.  I didn’t hear back for a long time and assumed I didn’t win.  My sister found a friend who would sell me their charity spot in the marathon.  I bought it.  I knew using the charity spot wasn’t ideal since the point of me running it was qualifying with a certain race time.  But in my heart I knew I qualified, charity or not.

So I was officially registered and planning on the race.  Then I got a call from Jet Blue telling me I won the contest!  I had to tell them I found another way in-although I wished I’d heard from them sooner!  They still gave me plane tickets to use sometime.  Sweet.  The week before the marathon I got tendonitis in my hip and running became quite painful.  I could hardly run around the block.  What was the deal?!  I just wanted to run my dream race-I had worked so hard.  I was disappointed but knew I had to run through it. With an amazing physical therapist and a lot of taping, I ran through the injury.

The following is a message I sent my other sisters (I’m lucky enough to have six sisters!)  I sent this the day after running Boston.

Hey girlies,

Just want to tell you how wonderful Jo is. We ran Boston yesterday-woohoo! Quite an experience.

I’ve had an injured hip and it’s something that takes time and rest to heal-not running a marathon. But there was no way I couldn’t run my dream race.

You know how people usually hit a wall later in marathons-like around mile 20? Well I felt like I started the marathon at the wall and it just got bigger and bigger.

Jo would give me all these inspirational lines and quotes, she would run ahead and tell people my name so they would cheer for me, she stayed with me the whole time-even when I was staring at the road, slowly putting one foot in front of the other and barely making it. (She even thanked all the service men and women-that were on all the corners-for serving our country). I wasn’t giving back-just taking all she would give me. I was rock bottom. I wanted to cry those last few miles but couldn’t find the energy. When we crossed the finish line I finally cried-tears of gratitude for an amazing sister that pulled me along for 26.2 miles.

What an amazing, unselfish sister!

Love you Jo,

Mel

I smile every time I picture my strong sister Jo-as she was cheering me along the whole race.  This was her dream marathon too and she spent it helping me survive!  I love to run.  But more than running, I love sisters.

Tolerance vs Love

Tolerance vs Love

Tolerance.  I don’t know what to think about this tolerance word. To tolerate someone reminds me of putting up with someone that’s totally different than me.  Someone I couldn’t possible see eye to eye with, but we both live on the same planet so I have to make the most of it.  Let me just tolerate you then I’ll flee your presence and wash my hands of you.

When I think of tolerate, I think of putting up with someone or something.  Like sitting through a very boring meeting that I “have to” attend.  Or listening to someone rant and rave about something because I “have to” listen.  Or even when I put up with my kids and their accompanying chaos-just trying to endure the day.

I often feel like I’ve tolerated life.  Knowing this or that situation/person is temporary and I can’t wait till it’s different in some future time.  Whether it’s looking for relief in 10 minutes or next year.  There are all sorts of ways to tolerate. When I tolerate, I endure misery with the hope that my situation will change.  Happiness is out there somewhere…as soon as (fill in the blank) happens.  Living like this makes people obstacles.

What about love?  If my motive is love, this changes everything.  Love is right here and now.  Love is genuine.  Love is listening to understand.  Love has no agenda.  Love is seeing people as fellow members of a giant earthly family with God as our Father.

Everyone wants to be happy.  I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t want peace and happiness, yet I see a lot of people suffering.  Consumed with worry, guilt, loneliness and adversity.  But we all want to be happy.  I have learned for myself that my happiness comes from following the Spirit and submitting to God’s will.   I used to think God’s will for me would be painful and hard.  I viewed it as something foreign to my dreams and wishes.  Well it is foreign to my previous thoughts and to what I wanted. Only it’s better than I ever imagined.  There are still struggles to live with and problems to work out-but I have peace.

Before I would find fleeting happiness in things I thought would make me happy.  But deep down I felt unsettled.  I ranged from unsatisfied to downright miserable at times.  I just wanted to be happy!  The peace and joy I find with God can’t compare to any fleeting moments of temporary happiness.  I just had to lay aside what I thought the answer should be.

When I live with this love, I see people.  I love living and interacting with all these people around me.  I’ve tolerated too many people for too long.  As my sister in law says, “people are beautiful”.  With love in my heart I can listen to and love each person I am with.  Loving people doesn’t mean I need to agree with what everyone says and does.  It’s trying to understand and know their hearts.  My heart aches when I see someone struggling-especially someone close to me.  Many of God’s children are suffering.  We can help heal one another with love-we are the Savior’s hands on earth and what He does with them is better than anything I do on my own.

I see a lot of people searching for happiness in ways that won’t bring it.  I can’t force love and change on anyone.  Heavenly Father is the ultimate parenting example and I know he values agency.  He has given us choice, knowing we need to use faith to find Him.  He will never force this on His children.  He invites us to come follow Him.  I love that.  Not coerce or convince, but invite.  I am so glad we are free to choose!  I choose God and I choose love.

How do I get there?

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I’ve been thinking about how I used to muscle my way through life. Anything challenging and I would buckle down and try really hard to accomplish the task before me.

Well, tasks became harder. Guilt and fear were often too much for me. Not to mention pride. Life was getting harder and I wasn’t really enjoying it.

My post before mentions justification and self-deception. I loved the new freedom this knowledge brought me. Having my sins so obviously before me helped me see what I was doing wrong. This helped me see how involved I was when I was unhappy with someone.

I became more aware of my role in the happiness of my relationships. I started to see my weaknesses so clearly-yet it was often really hard to overcome and choose the light.  I wanted to use logic and reason to overcome.

Recently I had an amazing experience (which I talked about in my Amazing Grace post). If you were to tell me it was amazing when I was in the middle of it, I would have laughed-then cried and begged for mercy. Which is what I was doing in the middle of this really low point. I desperately wanted the Lord’s mercy. I felt so consumed with guilt and sorrow over what an inadequate loser I was. Sad I know-but that’s how I felt. Then The Spirit taught me how my worth only comes from my Heavenly Father. He showed me how I was trying to prove my worth in anything and everything-constantly missing where it really came from. It was a losing battle. When the spirit began teaching me-a huge burden lifted. I honestly felt like it was too good to be true yet the truth spoke to my heart that this was real. This led to healing my soul. It was the beginning…

This new truth changed my world. Yet I was held back by something I only know how to describe as darkness. I could see what was God’s truth and what were satan’s lies. Yet I couldn’t get the dark, heavy weight to leave. My sister sent me a talk on the enabling power of the atonement. I asked The Lord to give me his strength and power and this brought me freedom. The darkness left and a peace and calm settled over me. It started small-old habits die hard and I had to continually fight them with the strength of the Savior. The peace and love has been growing within me-I truly stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me.

I began to see how hard I would try to change on my own when I knew what needed to be done-it was just so hard! When life no longer became a search for truth, it became a strength training session and I would try with whatever I could muster to be victorious. Life was too hard on my own. I wanted to be better before I approached The Lord. I was always so aware of my weaknesses and felt totally inadequate.

The savior isn’t waiting till I’m a better person-he is the way I can become better.

He loves me unconditionally right now, before, and forever.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phillipians 4:13). The enabling power of the atonement is for right now, every day life, big and small. His yoke is easy and his burden is light has new meaning in my life. I just have to let go of what I think the answer should be and practice even a particle of faith. I am in awe of what The Lord can do with me when I let Him in my life.

Here are some references that have helped me on this journey:

Heavenly Father, The Savior, Holy Ghost:)

http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=251

https://www.lds.org/ensign/2013/09/his-grace-is-sufficient?lang=eng

http://www.lds.org/music/library/hymns/i-stand-all-amazed?lang=eng

Justification

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This woman I know…

So I know this woman.  Poor thing struggles at times with being a victim and blaming her problems on others.

Ok so I’m the woman. This is a little hard to write but at the same time, what I’ve learned about justification and self-deception (same thing maybe?) has been so liberating that I can’t help but write about it. This blog is a way for me to share what God has been teaching me and this has been a big lesson for me.

Several years ago my husband shared a book and it’s ideas with me (Anatomy of Peace) that a good friend shared with him. Friends help friends improve their lives. This book is similar to Leadership and Self-Deception and my personal favorite-Bonds That Make Us Free. All these books have the similar theme that shines light on how we deceive ourselves which feeds our misery. How we sometimes blame our problems on something outside of ourselves (judging, criticizing, being a victim etc.) And we become enslaved spending time and energy blaming and gathering evidence for justifying our poor behavior.

I started to see how anytime I was angry, annoyed, and just bothered by anyone and their behavior that I needed to look at myself. I have been unable to justify any hard feelings towards anyone, ever! I am racking my brain trying to come up with a time that I’m justified but I got nothing. Here are some examples of thoughts this woman I know has before getting out of victim-mode:

They are so selfish.

I have to do everything for everybody.

I wish they would just help out a little!

The things I have to put up with.

Too much is asked of me.

But I’m so tired and hungry…

Terrible driver.

Moron.

Can’t they see I need help?!

I could go on and on and on but this woman I know wouldn’t appreciate it. Honestly, I used to get upset-a lot. I’m the type that keeps it all in…then drops a few subtle hints…then eventually explodes. My poor husband and kids. This self-deception stuff showed me what I was doing. I learned that when I am hating on someone-or even just irked by them, that I need to look at myself. Excuses, excuses. I couldn’t excuse myself for bad behavior anymore. I recognized that people may act foolish or cruel but I don’t need to tie myself to them. I get sucked in when I judge, criticize and behave badly on my end. I had to have something to blame my poor behavior on!

I’ve been learning to catch this self-deception in the thought stage. Before I start to become miserable and share my misery.

The freedom that comes when I stop the deception/justification cycle is priceless. What an empowering realization-that I am responsible for my thoughts and actions. Humbling and liberating.

So I’ll keep working with this woman I know. She’s not perfect by any means-but she’s finding the freedom and happiness that comes from being honest with herself.

Shine on

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To shine or not to shine.  That is the question…

When I put it that way, seems like a no-brainer.  Why is it so hard as I discover me to let myself shine?  I feel like I’ve been uncovering this shell that has surrounded me and as I peel off the pieces, there is only light bursting through.  We all have this incredible person inside-some people know it and just shine like the sun.  You know those people that are pure joy to be around?

I have had to peel off the pieces of worry, fear, and guilt. Sometimes the pieces come back but are becoming less sticky.

I used to keep my light hidden-I didn’t even know it was in there.  Life was often painful and filled with worry and stress.  Since I based much of my worth on what others thought of me and how I compared to those around me, I was often miserable and always searching for happiness.  When I was happy, it was often short-lived.

Then God started to teach me about worth.  I wanted to prove my worth in anything and everything-appearance, talents, knowledge, whatever.  God has been teaching me how my worth comes from Him and Him alone.  He has helped me see how much time and energy I’ve wasted trying to prove myself.  I am enough right now-whether I’ve made some wrong choices, wasted time, and even when I’ve turned from God.  We always have divine worth.  I have repeated the Young Women’s theme hundreds of times in my life and am FINALLY letting divine worth sink in.

I have felt so much joy lately.  My life surroundings are the same-yet I feel like everyone and everything is different.  I am seeing things in a deeper, more loving way.  This is such a contrast to how I previously felt that I want to shout for joy and tell everyone how fantastic life is.  But I hold back-afraid if people knew me with all my joy they would be annoyed.  They might think, “of course you’re happy-your husband has a great job, you have great kids.  Just wait till you have a real trial.  You have no chronic illness and you’re not missing any limbs.  Of course you’re happy.”  I hold back the happiness inside because I know there are starving people in Africa, wars going on around the world and life is very tragic.

But I’m not happy because my life is perfect and without problems-I’m happy because I know who I am.  Because I know in whom I trust.  The love of God has filled me with joy.  Sometimes I struggle, fall and start forgetting who I am.  That’s where I’ve had to draw on faith and repentance.   Just put one foot in front of the other till the love comes back.  Just keep swimming…

I’ve been pondering over these things and have wondered why can’t I just be me and why am I feeling bad about feeling good?  Last night I was at a Young Women’s meeting and someone was talking about Lehi’s dream and the Tree of Life.  He talked about how the fruit of the tree was God’s love.  Some partook and wanted to share.  Yet some partook of the fruit and were ashamed because of the scoffing of the world.  I was very humbled as I realized I do this when I don’t shine.  The love of God tastes so good and fills my soul.  Yet the devil will do anything he can to keep me from this love.  The deceptions of the devil are endless-whether he convinces me to “prove” my worth or to convince me to feel shame about the love of God and who I really am. Get thee hence Satan!  (Matthew 4:10)  Love and joy come from God and we are here to have joy (2 Nephi 2:25).

So shine on.

Frozen and The Book of Mormon

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For weeks and weeks my daughter has been telling me how great the movie Frozen was.  She kept saying how it’s her new favorite movie and that I need to go see it.  She said, “It’s even better than Tangled!”  I just thought eventually I’d get around to it-like when it came to Apple TV or something.  She finally got my attention when she played me some great songs from the movie.  I fell in love with “Let it Go”.    Finally I listened and we took the kids to Frozen over the weekend.

I LOVED it!  Was so adorable, touching, inspiring, beautiful music…I could go on and on.  When we left the theater, I smiled at my daughter and said jokingly, “Why didn’t you tell me it was so good?!”  Then I realized this was like my experience with The Book of Mormon.  People could tell me all day how the movie was amazing, but until I saw it for myself I wouldn’t know.  I could tell people over and over how great this book is, but until they read it…

The Book of Mormon is such an incredible and life changing book.  I never cease to learn or be inspired from this extraordinary book of God.   I can’t force anyone to read it-as much as I would love to share the joy it has brought me.  I can only share what’s in my heart and hope others know I share because I have been so blessed by this book and I want to share this joy.

Food Glorious Food!

Food glorious food!

Ah food.  My friend, my confidant, my enemy and my demise…

“It’s just food.”  A friend said to me after I asked her how she stayed so thin.  Just food? Just food?!  I wanted to say, “Are you kidding?  Are you for real?”  I even thought that maybe she was just pretending and that she was really consumed with food worry too.  I thought food worry was an inevitable part of life.

I feel compelled to share my journey and love/hate relationship with food.  If there is anyone out there that can benefit from what I’ve learned, then it’s worth sharing.

I was obsessed.  My obsession started out as many obsessions do.  It started small and with good intentions.  I was in my twenties and having children and realized I didn’t eat as healthy as I thought and wanted to clean up my eating.  I always had a little belly and thought, “if I just ate better, I could get a flat lean tummy.  Then I wouldn’t call it a tummy-it would be my six pack!”

I quit drinking soda all the time.  I tried to quit eating so many cookies.  Eventually I tried to quit eating sugar.  Harmless right?  In fact-I thought I was doing the right thing in eliminating all this “evil” from my life.  I bought book after book on the subject, hoping to find the magic cure for my sugar addiction.  Hoping to lose those last 10 pounds!  I knew that if I could just demonize junk food enough that I would see the light, that I would have the motivation to leave it all behind.  I would write in my journal of how pathetic I was.  I wrote feelings of how disgusted I was with myself and that this was the “last time” and I would leave the evils of sugar behind me.  Starting tomorrow…years of starting tomorrow.

When I felt like I was rock bottom and totally desperate to quit junk food I called my sister.  (Why must I wait till all out desperation??  People can help each other-just ask for help.)  I told her what I dared share of my problem and wanted her help with my food woes.  She gave me the best advise-yet it was totally not what I wanted to hear.  She said “pray”.  I thought, pray?  Why would God want to hear about this huge weakness I have with food.  I was ashamed and thought I should know better.  Ah, the deception of the devil.  I have since learned that there is nothing too small, nothing shameful that I can’t pray about.  In fact-if I feel shame I need to go directly to my Heavenly Father to remind me of my worth.  He wants to bless and heal me.  The very hairs on my head are numbered (Matthew 10:30).  Anytime I don’t want to pray about something troubling me I have to remind myself this is a deception (2 Nephi 32:8) and heaven would love to help me.

So I prayed.  Shortly after my plea to heaven, I discovered Intuitive Eating.  I instinctively knew this was the answer for me.  The Spirit spoke to my heart that this was the path of healing and peace.  I wish I could say end of story and I was forever finished obsessing about food!  Over many years and many attempts of falling and trying again and again-I have been on a path of healing.  Hindsight shows me that I have come so far from where I used to be.  Heavenly Father sent me a feeling of peace and direction years ago-yet I would get sucked into a diet that wasn’t really a diet…this is a lifestyle change…just quit eating junk food…stop emotional eating…and a sneaky little food obsession would escalate.  Time and again-the spirit gently reminded me that my answer is the same and always will be.  Food isn’t evil.   You aren’t on earth to be consumed with food and body image.  ENJOY your food.  Sit down.  Pay attention to how food makes you feel-I discovered I love chocolate, but don’t love certain sugary sweets like licorice or Swedish fish.  I love a good salad but I don’t love seafood.  I love smoothies but I don’t love cereal-unless I’m really hungry or bored and there’s nothing better to eat.  I love ice cream-and that’s great! Now I can enjoy wonderful visits with friends and family and focus on the person in front of me-not the food.

If there is something I could say to sum up my learning experience it wouldn’t be that Intuitive Eating is the end all answer for everyone.  I say pray.  Our answers may all be different but we need to pray to get the answer, to get help.  Our Heavenly Father loves us and knows us better than we know ourselves.  He sees us with all our amazing potential.  He knows we are not our problems.  He wants us to rise above and be free of what may be holding us back from really living.  He wants to help-we just need to ask.  He will speak to our hearts with a gentle, inviting spirit.  I had to set aside what I thought was the answer and put my faith and trust in Him-again and again.