Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What it's like to be human

Life, for the most part, has been exceedingly normal for us lately.  We've been busy with the family coming into town and all the festivities and activities that have been ushered in by the holidays.  Yet over the past few weeks, my heart has been heavy.  
  I'm not really sure when I fell back into this rut of worry and anxiety but it hit me like a ton of bricks.  And, suddenly, it's all I can think about.  There was a part of me that thought as time went on with my little Chunk being stable and healthy, I would become more confident in her miracle.  But to be completely and perfectly honest, that is the opposite of what has happened.  The more time that passes, the more I find myself grasping at just the air to breathe.  The happier we are, the more scared I become. And as she blossoms into a beautiful little girl, I find myself pressed for time, scared that our time is running out.
  The outright conviction I feel for even typing these words is unbelievable.  I should have more faith than this, right?  I should be more confident in Jesus Christ, it should be so much easier for me to believe....or at least I feel like it should be.  And yet, I struggle.  
  It comes at the most random moments.  We'll be sitting in the floor playing and I'll look at Talks and Chunks playing with each other, loving each other and my heart breaks.  Tears well up into my eyes and I have to choke back the emotions that are rushing through me.  I mean, they may fight and bicker but those two children love each other so fully and completely that it brings me to my knees.  He loves her, as a sister, as a playmate and as a best friend.  It's just precious.
  So I find myself constantly sitting here overwhelmed by the love I feel for my family.  And the more time that passes, the more I fall in love with my children.  I never knew how blessed I would feel as a mother.  It's indescribable.  And from this perspective, Chunks' cancer makes me fall to pieces.  I think her illness hits me at different moments and at different degrees as this journey continues.  And while I'm not filled with the hopeless despair that once plagued me in the beginning, I now find myself overwhelmed by a sadness that I cannot even put into words.  
  It doesn't help that, lately, I have gotten email after email alerting me to the fact that one of our precious St. Jude's friends has relapsed, is nearing the end of their journey or has already passed.  And constantly hearing this news sometimes makes me feel like I must be living in a fantasy world.  The human part of me thinks, "Who am I kidding?!".  Medically, statistically and humanly speaking, our daughter should not survive.  There is only a 5% chance that she will even live to celebrate her 5th birthday.  As a mom, what am I supposed to do with that?
  I started off this blog in tears, feeling exhausted from the pain I feel within my soul.  I feel like I am walking through each day with a backpack full of pain lugging behind me.  And somehow just putting all of this down on "paper" makes me able to breathe a little easier.  At the end of the day, there is no good answer, there is no simple solution but there's always Jesus Christ.  And I know He has allowed this so He must know we are able to survive this, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  I guess I've just been really human lately.  It must just come with the territory of actually being human....
  So I suppose there's just going to be days where my heart is broken and my world is ripped apart but that's just apart of it.  And I guess I might have days where my faith isn't as strong, my will to believe is weak and my fears just get the best of me.  After all, following Jesus doesn't make life easy, it just makes it bearable.  And at the end of the day, all I can really do is turn from my fears and come to Jesus...

Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head for Love is passing by

Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live

Now your burden's lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain, so

Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live

And like a newborn baby
Don't be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk sometimes we fall, so

Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then

Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live

O, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can't contain you joy inside, then

Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live

And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory's side, and

Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Let the race begin

I used to be one of those people that just didn't "get it".  Every time I would see someone jogging down the side of the road, wearing those ghastly tight leggings and dripping sweat from head to toe, I would most often think how crazy they were.  I am sure there was a bit of jealousy in the back of my mind somewhere, as well, maybe because I wished I could be that athletic.  Because let's face it, I'm just not an athlete.  
In elementary school, I attempted to be a cheerleader.  This most often meant that I showed up at Saturday basketball games more excited about the snacks and drinks than the cheer routines.  It took all of my girlish will power to muster up a "hoo-rah!".  Then, in high school I (let me tread lightly here) tried to play volleyball.  I was probably the least-coordinated person on the entire team.  When our coach said jump, my first instinct was to sit down.  Why?  Because I am just that uncoordinated when it comes to sports.  The first and only time I actually did something right in a game was at the end of the season in our "championship" game.  

Our coach graciously let me play (considering we were ahead by an obscene amount of points, I assume she knew I couldn't give away too many points in just a few minutes) and I was more nervous than excited.  I was on the front line, right up by the net and the setter "set" a ball up in the air for me to spike down on the other team's court.  I went up, actually struck the ball with the palm of my hand and made an amazing spike on the other side. I was so excited that I immediately started jumping up and down, screaming and laughing like a four year old.  My coach, half yelling and half laughing, kindly reminded me that the ball was still in play.  Yeah, maybe a little bit too early for celebration.  But we won, not in any way because of me.

I also managed to break both of my pinkies in sports-related activities.  The first, during volleyball in P.E (imagine that).  The ball was served, came across the court and hit me directly on the side of my pinky, snapping it in half.  I know, it makes you cringe, right? My other pinky was broken during a Powder Puff football practice in high school.  I was diving for the ball, landed on my pinky and, once again, it snapped in half (just in a different direction than the previous break).  All of this should lead you to the obvious conclusion that  athleticism  does not run through my veins.

This is why Saturday, December 5, 2009 was probably my biggest physical accomplishment.  I actually ran a half-marathon. 

 I first learned about the Memphis Marathon while we were living at St. Jude's last year.  Every year, they hold this race and it is a huge fundraising event for St. Jude's, most often bringing in over a million dollars.  Considering my little Chunk is a patient at the hospital, I felt compelled to begin training for the marathon and so my journey began.

At first, even running a mile would send me into a hyperventilation-type state.  It just seemed like I couldn't catch my breath and I would be so tired afterwards, I could hardly function.  Running for 13.1 miles seemed like an impossibility to me but, in some ways, that just made me want to do it more.  And for an entire year, I ran.  Three days a week, like clockwork, I would hit the treadmill, running until I physically couldn't anymore.  I was sore all the time, my legs burned constantly and my appetite seemed to grow by the minute.  At some point, I wondered if all this discomfort was really worth it but I pushed that thought aside and continued on.

Throughout the year, God really started using my runs as a time to focus on Him and not on everything else that I thought mattered.  A lot of times, I would come home from the gym tired but refreshed, I had spent my time with the Lord and I felt renewed.  Jesus also used this time to teach me a lot about myself.  I wasn't as strong as I thought I would be.  I couldn't handle this on my own, I couldn't always push past the pain when I wanted to....sometimes I almost felt like a little girl.  There were days when I struggled so badly that I wanted to give up but I would repeat the same verse over and over in my head as I ran, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".  And I realized....I could.

So as the marathon drew near, I just decided to stop worrying about if I could do it and just accept the fact that I couldn't....not on my own, anyways.  

The morning of the race, it was a bitter 25 degrees; a huge shock from the semi-cooled environment of my home gym.  As I stood there waiting for the race to begin, I felt like my legs were going to freeze and break off.  It dawned on me at that moment that it might have been a good idea to do a couple of runs outdoors, just to help my body get used to the elements.  Nice thought, but a little too late.  Thankfully, a few miles into the run, I discovered that your body adapts to the cold weather as your core temperature goes up from physical activity.  It was for this reason, I was thankful that I did not take my mother's advice and wear two pairs of pants (thanks anyways, mom).

I remember when I saw the sign that said, "10 miles".  I looked up at the sky and said, "Thank you, Jesus!!".  I knew that I was in the homestretch and the finish line was just three miles ahead.  I had estimated that it would take me about 2 hours to finish (per my finish time in training) and I had already informed everyone that I would be highly irritated if I went over 2 hours.  I had no idea how long I had been running, but I knew my pace was about 8 1/2 minutes a mile.  I kept trying to do the math in my head to determine my finish time but gave up after about 2 seconds.  Another tidbit I learned--the brain doesn't do math during intense physical activity.

And then, there it was.  Mile 13.  I ran faster than I've ever ran in my life, knowing that my family was waiting to greet me at the finish line.  Unfortunately, as I finally completed the half-marathon, I immediately came to a stop and my noodle-legs almost gave out from underneath me.  I suppose this is why olympic runners always run at a slow pace after completing their runs.  It is to avoid noodle-legs.  I got my medal, got some pats on the back and left smiling.  I had done it.  A year's worth of blood, sweat and tears and it was over.  My first thought what do I do?

I went to check my results and was ecstatic to learn that I had run the half-marathon in an hour and 55 minutes, five minutes faster than my goal.  Although I would love to say, "I did it!"; I know that I didn't.  Because if there's anything I learned through all of this, it's that I can only do it because He is beside me.  As inspiring as it was to have so many people cheering us on as we ran, to see the children of St. Jude's waving at us as we passed and to see the thousands of people that came out to support such a wonderful cause; the thing that inspired me the most was the music streaming through my IPOD.  A collection of worship songs, reminding me that it's my body but I'm His vessel.  

So maybe that sounds like a really spiritual way to describe running but that's just what it is for me.  And maybe, like my husband says, I am addicted to it.  But it's just my thing.  I'm not athletic, I can't even follow a football game that well on T.V, but I can run.  And I'll keep on jumping out of bed three mornings a week, desperately excited to hit the treadmill.  Because as cheesy as it may sound, it's my time to push away the world and run towards Him.