Running into Story

My drive to work is nothing special. It starts with a nondescript road, grey and industrial and mostly quiet except for the semi trucks that sometimes congregate at the stoplight. Only, if I remember to look down when crossing the river, down and to the right, I smile.

It’s my recurring phenomenon across the suburbs, across urban and residential areas, across the very heart of the city.

Certain intersections are dear to my heart, certain crosswalks and parks and even train stations. I once made meticulous plans to be at those intersections, to be at those crosswalks and parks and train stations, and when I find myself there again by accident, it feels like a secret and a surprise.

I should venture out of the city a little more. I should seek out longer stretches of dirt and fresher air and closer proximity to the mountains. Denver is big, but it’s not that big. It’s beautiful, but it’s not that beautiful.

But I love it. I love this way of discovering my town. I love making my own loops and dipping into tiny parks and looking in vain for a sign with my last name on it. I love involving public transit when I can, fiddling with my armful of gear in the mornings and keeping downwind from other people in the afternoons.

running selfie
My favorite selfies are the ones that bookend my runs.

More than anything, though, I love the stories that write themselves when I run — memories upon memories, tied to place: This is where I saw the deer, on that side of the snow-covered bridge in Cherry Creek State Park. This is where I almost cried listening to The Liturgists Podcast, these two laps around City Park on that hot March day. And the most common story: This is where I went the wrong way and got lost.

But I was always finding things too.

Some I found simply by going to certain places at certain times and paying attention. It’s the feel of the wind at night, warm and wild against my face, hours before the storm hits and the snow blankets everything. It’s the sight of the most beautiful sunrise I’ve ever seen on the morning of my first marathon, a beauty undiminished even though everything else went wrong that day. It’s a series of quacks and rustlings and big skies and horizons. It’s life at its zenith, in me and out there.

sunrise
A sunrise so beautiful that even an iPhone photo does it justice.

I found within myself the usual things people find when they spend months training their bodies in strength and stamina, all the exhilarating and painful and confident and exhausting and stubborn things. I found a clarity that surprised me, an ease in decision-making while on the trail. I learned what I was capable of, and I learned when it was worth it … and when it wasn’t.

Not everything about running has been glorious or even good, but for many of the months I’ve lived in Colorado, it’s been one of the truest parts of my life. Even in the staggering and the struggling, the long middles and the early mornings, it was the X that marked the spot. So I look down and to the right, and I smile.

Day 15: Lectio Divina and a Lost Conference

flowersYou are planted here.

Those were the words I felt in my spirit during Sunday night youth group as I lay on the church sanctuary floor.

A few of us read Psalm 1 out loud, silently asking God to highlight a word or phrase or picture. Then we each retreated to separate corners to meditate and ask and rest in the living word with the living God. In other words, we practiced lectio divina (Latin for “divine reading”), the ancient monastic practice.

Part of the third verse jumped off the page into my waiting self: “He is like a tree planted by streams of water.”

You are planted here.

Those words came back to me yesterday morning as I was fighting back tears of disappointment and frustration. A work meeting at 9 o’clock, 15 minutes of forgetfulness, and twelve hundred other women who were more on top of things than I was, and suddenly the IF Gathering in Austin, Texas, was no longer a possibility for me.

This was to be another adventure with a far-away friend, but more than that it was to be a coming together of women to be real together, to wrestle together, to ask questions and seek God and discover purpose and build each other up. And as the IF Gathering became less of a typical-conference thing and more of a stepping-out-in-faith thing, my excitement grew.

And then it was gone.

But folding hundreds of Share-a-thon letters in a quiet room is very therapeutic. I prayed and processed through this unwelcome turn of events, and my sadness and guilt and frustration melted into peace.

You are planted here.

The IF Gathering isn’t just a Texas-only event; it’s being opened to others around the world via webcast.

Maybe this is an opportunity for her to get to know people in Texas; maybe this is an opportunity for me to get to know people here.

“You’re always going somewhere,” I’m often told. I try to deny it, but looking back over the last year, back at England and Chicago and Alaska and Mexico and the Pacific Northwest and Pennsylvania (not to mention China the year before), I can’t.

Maybe I need this reminder that it’s okay to stay put. I don’t need a plane trip and a change of scenery to grow or make a difference or see God in a new way.

I wouldn’t have chosen it like this, but I am planted here, and I am at peace.

This is day 15 of 31 Days in the Word.

9 Things I Learned in September

For the third time, I’m linking up with fellow blogger Emily Freeman and others to share with you a few of the things I learned this month. I do always look forward to these blog posts (though I can’t believe September is almost over!). Anyway, this is a collection of some of the things I’ve learned, on a head level, a heart level, an experiential level, and a wow-I-never-knew-that-before! level.

1. I can walk in high heels and not look completely unnatural (not to mention not fall over). This may not sound very impressive, until I tell you that I have never owned a pair of heels before, and that these heels were monstrosities! They were the required footwear for a wedding I was bridesmaiding in, and even the hardened high-heel wearers of the group found these heels especially uncomfortable. Looks like all my hours of practice paid off!

me and high heels

2. It feels good to step out of your comfort zone. None of the other bridesmaids were going to give a toast, so I offered to give one. What have I done? I thought for a split second as the bride-to-be made the call to add me to the schedule. And then it passed. I was a little nervous before the DJ handed me the microphone, but in the moment and afterward, I marveled at how natural it all felt, and how glad I was to be able to encourage my friend in this way. Doing hard things is always worth it.

3. You can mute Spotify while it’s playing an ad and not just pause the ad in the process. (I know, I was excited too!). You simply pause the ad, then mute your computer, then press play. Unmute when the music starts again.

4. I am learning how Twitter works. I’ve had an account for a while, but hadn’t really tweeted much until very recently (you can follow me at @lizziegoldsmith if you want). Until a couple days ago, I didn’t know about the “Connect” button and that it lets you see all your interactions with others. Twitter makes so much more sense now.

5. Speaking of Twitter, I’m discovering a tension between social networking to promote myself and my blog, and social networking to connect with others. I don’t want to be a brand and all focused on appearances, but it can be very easy to forget that life is not about me (and neither is the Internet) — to quote my recent blog on the subject. Anyway, I can’t forget that social networking is indeed a helpful tool, but I don’t want to make it all about me and the pursuit of what I want. I want to be real online and seek to understand as well as to be understood. I know this will be something I’ll have to keep coming back to to check and re-check my motives, but it’s worth it.

6. Love is more important than the right words. This is one of the more important blog posts I wrote this month. I was thinking about how to say things in ways people will receive, and then I realized that love is more important than all those strategies. That’s the way to get through to people, and that’s the way to live life to the fullest yourself. “And if you feel like the love is lacking, pray for more love. And if you feel like the love is strong, pray for more love. We always need more love.”

7. I found out what Bluetooth is. In a word: wireless.

8. I’m not where I want to be spiritually, but the longing is there. With the help of my journals over the last few years, I recently took a long, hard look at my spiritual life. I’m not where I want to be. I’m not where I was a year ago when I had just returned home from my Discipleship Training School with YWAM. I doubt. I wonder if I’ve ever really tasted and seen. “I don’t know how I feel about God right now, or where we’re at, or what it will take to get back to a place of intimacy and trust. But I want that.” I can’t go back, but I can go forward!

9. I can blog consistently for a month (and counting)! I had hoped I would be able to say this at the end of this month, and now that it’s here I’m happy to report that I have been blogging consistently twice a week since August. It has been so fulfilling to write more, especially now that the habit is there and the accountability is there.

What did you learn this month? Feel free to share in the comments section!

Pencil Grey

pencil and paper
photo by {Flixelpix} David on creative commons (flickr)

I’m happy. I really am.

I started reading Emily Freeman‘s book Grace for the Good Girl right after I finished writing my last blog about masks and personas and people-pleasing, and even though I knew the book addressed all those things with a breathe of grace, I was surprised by how closely it mirrored my life and my experiences. And that was just the first chapter. My sister and I will be reading that book together, little by little. I think we both need it. (And how wonderful it is to read the books written by my favorite bloggers).

For the first time in a long time, I’m starting to see little hints of mask-removal, little moments of answering honestly and not hiding and not ordering my life around what so-and-so might think. It’s nice, even though I’m sure there are bigger tests to come.

I’m not afraid to tell you that I have doubts about God and my faith, or that I don’t exercise and eat right, or that I waste so much time online long after it stops being fun.

But being real doesn’t always mean serious and vulnerable and big. It also means feeling free to be my whimsical self, or to be less busy, or to step out of the box.

This is what I wrote in my journal one month ago:

The most important thing for me to be doing during this time isn’t to develop more good habits, read and write more, “arrive” more, but rather to spend time with God more and try to see myself the way he sees me: to give myself grace.

To focus on relationship, but without the bar set at perfection.

I want to make this last year at home count, before I jettison off to another state or country for dreams-come-true and everything-being-put-to-the-test.

It’s a delicate balance, that finding of freedom between the pencil-drawn lines. I hold the pencil, and I decide when it’s better for my soul to erase lines and redraw them elsewhere … or not. But there are no pens of any sort here (especially no exacting red pens or permanent markers!). Life is pencil-grey and so am I, and I’m okay with that.