Pavement Pounding Prayers

I started this blog a few years ago as a practice.  A practice to see if I could write “blog style.”   And a practice of commitment…not so much about writing but healthy living.  I committed publicly to re-joining Weight Watchers and to train to run a 5K.  Through the winter, spring, and summer of 2011, I learned to blog and jog.  And as anyone can see, both the blogging and jogging seemed to wane once I had run the 5K and attained my goal weight.  (See many previous posts about being a person who is both accustomed to having a sense of direction and has a desire to achieve.)  Mix in a portion of my tendency to get distracted and a dash of my penchant for Netflixing, and there is the recipe for how to go from 5k to couch.

And I did.

Life got busy.  I figured I deserved time to sit.  Life got stressful.  I figured I needed time to veg.  Life included more people.  I figured I needed to be around more.  All of my figuring added up to way more minutes on the couch than on the treadmill.  This math didn’t make me completely happy, but it seemed to work ok.

Until I found myself lost in the wilderness. Couching and netflixing, although good in small doses, aren’t so helpful in the wilderness.  After all, toting a sofa is an awfully heavy load.  And where does one plug in a computer?  So, I have found myself back pounding the pavement.  This time I’m practicing, too.  Not to train for a race.  But as a spiritual practice.

I’ve discovered that my pounding pavement becomes a form of prayer.  There’s something about the monotony that becomes almost meditative.  There’s something about stretching the ability of my body that renders me incapable of being anything but brutally honest with myself–and God.  There’s something about focusing on breath and form that forces me to drop the weight and worry I carry for others into God’s open palms.

Like my running, the pavement pounding prayers are not pretty or precise.  They are a work in progress.  Raw and real.  How else does one thrive in the wilderness?

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Weighing and Wrestling

It’s official.  I’m a lifetime member at Weight Watchers…again.  Again because I decided to join this winter from a fresh place.  Last time, 8 years ago last time, I had a different name.  A different life.  A different approach.  This time the processes has been much slower.  Much less dramatic.  Much more focused on making a true lifestyle change and not simply relishing shopping in a different section of a department store.  Skinny became like a drug to me 8 years ago and what I used to swallow with food I ended up running from with exercise.  Turns out thicker or thinner, I am still me and the challenges the I needed to wrestle with were there regardless of my weight.

This time I’m not going for thin.  I’m going for healthy.  This time I am working to call myself on when I’m swallowing or running from something I need to face.  This time I’m truly hoping it is a lifestyle change.  Judging from the last month I’d say that’s true.  As you may recall, I spent a month away from the gym and the scale.  Spent much of that time not having control over the food around me and also needing to navigate some tough stuff.  All said and done, I gained two pounds.  Not too bad.  Not too bad.

But what is really striking me today is how this whole journey seems to be marinating in my sermon crock pot.  As I ponder and pray over the story of Jacob wrestling with ish–a man?  God?  An angel?  (Angel–that’s the Midrash interpretation.)  At any event, somehow this has all been stewing in the same pot of my mind.  And I don’t like it.  Not one bit.  You see Jacob isn’t such a great guy.  He manipulates his brother into giving him his birthright, steals a blessing from his Father, and tricks Uncle Laban just about every step of the way.  He is one ambitious guy who may not step into the realm of murder and armed robbery but he sure isn’t  my ideal of ethical.  And yet, when I’m honest, I think I’m just a wee-bit like good ole Jacob.  I’ve spent time pretending to be somebody else.  Lord knows I did my share of manipulating, conniving, and competing with my sisters when we were young.  And, well, I’ve played innocent, dumb, or naive to gain an advantage.  And ambitious…yes I can claim that one too.

Sometimes I don’t like that I can relate to Jacob.  But as I sit with him this week, I think maybe it’s only as a recognize the Jacob within myself that I can actually begin to make different choices.  Maybe that’s the real blessing.  The blessing of being who I am.  Who we all are.  The blessing of admitting our own humanity .  The blessing of recognizing where and when we’ve hurt others and the ability to make amends.  I mean, let’s face it, Jacob wrestles with the Ish, receives another blessing and a new name, reconciles with his brother, and then lies to his brother again.  He may have changed a little.  He may be walking differently.  But he is who he is.  And I am who I am.  Making progress….not perfection.

Quotations for the Week:

24Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him (Genesis 32:24-25)

Now I become myself. It’s taken  / Time, many years and places; / I have been dissolved and shaken, / Worn other people’s faces ~May Sarton

Day of Reckoning

So, if you couldn’t tell from last week’s post, life was going on in full swing.  And having recently returned from the Fairy Tale of Food Heaven, I wasn’t ready for the reality of menuing, measuring, and memoing my health.  So I took a sabaath from tracking, running, and in general thinking about what I put in my mouth for a week and a half.  It was a much needed breather.  Sometimes there’s nothing like a Cookout Banana Pudding Milkshake to cure all that ailes you.  I mean really what can’t ice cream, biscuits and cheese cure?  I have to think all the world’s problems might just be solved by enjoying some good food with some good friends.  Or at least if we took the time to sit around a table, really shared food and drink, and listened to what one another had to say.

At the same time, the lure of veering off the stewardship of self loomed large.  Oh, not only did I indulge in edible goodies last week, I also indulged in some of my other favorite past times:  over-committing, enabling, and controling.  It wasn’t until listening to the sermon on Sunday that I realized–“DOH!  Megan, there you go again!  You’ve both forgotten that you are not in fact a super hero, caped crusader or christ and that you aren’t responsible for other people’s worlds–just yours.  And that is enough.”  It seems that when I’m not taking care of me, I really do believe it is my business to take care of everyone else.  When I say take care of everyone else, I mean solve their problems, tell them what to do, and in general be the expert on everything–excpet well, myself.  I just sort swallow my own self-care down with a giant gulp the way I do a milkshare.  Not so pretty, my friends.

And then I just get irritable, grumpy, grouchy…the list goes on.  So, Sunday I have this a-ha.  It’s Palm Sunday.  We celebrate and welcome the triumphant entry.  And like the crowd, I so easily know what I THINK this salvation thing should look like.  I THINK I know what is best.  And I THINK I want to be in charge of what everyone else should do.  I have this a-ha, but does that stop me?  Oh no!  I might have gotten back to the gym and back on the scale (up a pound–and not beating myself up–this is success for me), but I still managed to pick a fight with boyfriend (we’ll call him Aidan–yes I used to watch Sex and the City and honestly I’m much more of an Aidan gal than a Mr. Big chic, but I digress)  As Aidan shares about his day and the trials of apartment searching, I not only need to give my two cents, I open up the wallet to pour out all my change.  I catch myself and apologize.  And as I drove to the hospital last night for my on-call shift, I couldn’t help but realize…there I go again!  And that my friends is why I have discovered that I need to continue to commit to this stewardship of self.  Apparently, something in the process of me taking responsibility for me helps me not try to take responsibility for everybody else.  But cookout milkshakes, Biscuitville, and dinner with friends…well, that’s a sabaath worth taking any time.

Quotations for the Week

My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and talents, and I lay both of them at His feet.  Mahatma Gandhi

Self-discipline is self-caring. M Scott Peck

As I surrerendered my imaginary power over others, I gaied a more realistic view of my own life

Oh Megan, Just Get Out There and Fail

Failure is not something I do.  Or rather it’s not something I do well or gracefully.  I think I have taken the Scripture passage “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) a little too literally.  Or perhaps the perfectionist in me uses this quotation as justification for replaying the old tapes in my head that tell me I’m not good enough, smart enough, worthy enough…you can fill in the rest.  Of course this attempting to be perfect bit and weight loss.  This attempting to be perfect bit and ministry.  This attempting to be perfect bit and life don’t seem to work out so well.  Just today at my WW meeting, my leader talked about how she worries about folks who never gain a little during their weight loss.  How are they really living?  How will they maintain? She asks.  Intellectually I get this.  And thankfully this go-round I’ve had a couple ups and downs with my weekly weigh-ins and seem to be able to both be honest with myself and continue to make mostly healthy choices.  (There was a time when I would simply not write to avoid the truth.  I think I convinced myself that unless pen hit paper the calories wouldn’t count.  This is sort of like assuming that unless I confess it to God, God won’t know)  Anyway, what I perceive as failure is not something I seem to readily accept or gracefully manage.

In addition to complicating the weight loss journey, this trait also challenges my ministry.  On any given day it can produce frenzied thinking, speaking, acting or the complete opposite–paralysis.  I can get so caught up in the how can I do this perfectly that I simply don’t do.  I write and erase.  I create and destroy.  My email inbox is filled with drafts never finished.  My box of greeting cards is jammed with greeting cards written but not addressed or sent.  My journal is filled with ideas that I struggle to translate into projects, plans, or paper.  Or at least paper that anyone else will see.  Honestly, it took me two years to start a blog.  And when I did, I couldn’t do it under the ministry I practice.  Not because people wouldn’t read.  Not because it doesn’t speak to my community.  (Actually my community of youth and young adults is primed for a blog)  NO, I haven’t done that because I wanted to practice blogging before I put something out there.  I wasn’t sure how to write this way.  What was blogging technique?  Could I get comfortable with run-ons?  Fragments?  What about the tech piece?  I don’t know how to size a photo or add a link or put in a sound/video file?  So, there you have it.  What you’re reading is my attempt to “Get Out There and Fail.”  (I heard this at a workshop a couple weeks ago, and I liked it.)

More important is the ding-dang Scripture passage.  Do you know that perfect in Greek actually translates more accurately as the word whole. Well, why don’t they say that?  And why do translations from the King James to New Revised Standard to the New Living Translation all use the word perfect?  Now, I don’t mean I wouldn’t still struggle with the perfectionism thing (I mean, I am me after all.)  But what I’m saying is that if I read the passage as becoming whole like my father in heaven, well that’s different.  Failure is part of being whole.  At least when I look back at some of my “biggest failures” those have usually been where I’ve grown the most.  Sounds trite a I know.  Cliche maybe.  But there’s a reason it’s cliche…it’s TRUE!  And well, if that’s part of how I grow more authentic, more real, more of who God created me to be, more–dare I say–holy.  Now this gives me something powerful to help replace my old tapes.  This is Good News…life giving, paralysis breaking, perspective challenging.

Quotations for the Week:

Be whole, therefore, as your heavenly Father is whole. (Matthew 5:48)

It has always seemed strange to me… the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.  (John Steinbeck)

Supposing you have tried and failed again and again.  You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call “failure” is not the falling down, but the staying down.  (Mary Pickford)

Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better. (Samuel Beck)

No is not a 4-Letter Word

As a recovering perfectionist

pleaser

do whatever you need of her

I have discovered that no

is a word that had not been in my vocabulary.

At least not the word no to other people.  I feared uttering the dreaded no.  Quivered at the thought that I would incur the wrath of God, Satan, and Santa.  I’d be left alone–friendless and forgotten.  What I came to realize the last time I entered Weight Watchers and hit my goal weight was that I’d become alone–fat and fake.  I was so consumed with figuring out what everyone else wanted, needed, and expected of me, I lost touch with the most important person in making decisions about my life–ME!  Part of what I started to learn while Weight Watching ten years ago was that saying yes to something is also saying no to something else.  IE–Saying yes to following my points meant saying no the quantity of cookies and cakes I had grown accustomed.  Saying yes to my health and well being meant needing to say no to some of the favors and requests of others.  Saying yes to this self hidden under 40 pounds meant saying no to all the methods I attempted to silence the girl inside.  In treating no like a 4-letter word, I had treated myself (and allowed others to treat me) like a 4-letter word.

What brings this up now?  Well, a couple of things.  First, I don’t believe I am the only person who has confused no for a 4-letter word.  In fact, many of the young people I minister with and to also seem to have the same belief.  I have actually devised a sermonlette about Saying No Early and Often.  Basically, I work to reinforce that I don’t hear no as a four letter word.  I would much rather hear an honest no than a dishonest yes.  I much prefer hearing no because then I believe that your yes actually means yes.  So, there’s one reason.  Second, I have spent a year challenging myself to say yes more.  I know.  I know.  I just went on and on about the virtue of no, and here I am sharing that I’m working on yes.

But this is a yes to me.  What I have discovered over the last year and the second Weight Watcher attempt (now 5 pounds from goal) is that saying no is not enough.  I also needed to learn to say yes to me, to God, to opportunity.  I’ve spent a lot of the last 10 years alone.  Solo.  Just me myself and I.  I dated me.  Got a sense for who I was.  What I liked, what I didn’t like.  What I wanted to say no to, and what I wanted to say yes to.  So my 2010-2011 challenge to self was learning to trust enough to say yes.  And what a ride it’s been.  In one year I’ve moved twice, bought my first house, fallen in love, entered into ministry, finished a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, made it through the ordination process, planned and led a trip to India for students, developed programming, created multiple worship services, said no to work in order to say yes to family, lost 9 pounds, and run 2.6 miles a work-out session (5K soon to come).  If you were to have told me 10 years ago that I’d have accomplished half of this list, I would laugh.  Not possible.  Not me.  And yet, here I am.  So, the next time someone struggles to hear your no (and that someone might be you) stop and ponder what’s so scary about that no?  And what aren’t you saying yes to?

Quotations for the Week:

Saying no can be the ultimate self-care.–(Claudia Black)

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?  Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.  There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.  We were born to magnify the glory of God that is within us.  It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others–(except from Nelson Mandela’s 1994 Inaugural Speech)

Good-Bye Wagon; Hello Sugar Hang-Over

Before I begin my blog for today, let me first say, I feel partly absurd and frivolous for even writing a blog entry about last M. Malick’s weekly weight loss struggle.  With the recent earthquake and tsunami in Northern Japan and the subsequent devastation and potential nuclear disaster, writing about weight loss feels a little self-indulgent to say the least.  And for those who have read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I see myself a little like the fictional Juliet.  Writing something trifling.  Or so it seems.

If you couldn’t guess from the title of this week’s entry, last week provided a dietary challenge.  It started with Pie Day.  What is Pie Day? You wonder.  It is how the staff celebrated Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, or more apt, Fat Tuesday.  All staff persons were invited to make a pie to share for lunch.  And pies included, but were not limited to, dessert pies, shepherd’s pies, empanadas, and spanakopita.  So, since I lost 2+ pounds last week, I indulged a little.  And oh it was wonderful.  I officially treated myself to a day off…knowing that Ash Wednesday was the following day, and I would be back on the wagon.  Or so I planned.  Well, what started as a day off turned into 5.  That’s right.  Five!  Now, just to be clear, I did not go and buy gallons of ice cream, demolish an entire bag of chips, or devour an entire batch of cookies.  Not at all.  What I did was not measure, not plan, and not think.  Thursday was a late lunch including 3/4 of a personal pizza and Friday started a 24 hour women’s retreat.  Although I was part of the staff leading the retreat, my detail eye did not design what I would eat.  So, I ate what we had.  Which included a nice wine and cheese, fried green tomato casserole, brownies, and ice cream.

But apparently my eyes are now officially bigger than my stomach.  The brownie and ice cream indulgence was Friday night. And Saturday morning I awoke with a head and stomach ache.  If I didn’t have to work, I would have stayed in bed.  I had a hangover–a sugar hangover.  I have heard of this before.  Wasn’t sure it was possible.  Thought it was probably a Weight Watcher Myth attempting to help us stay on plan.  But I’m here to tell you, it is possible.  Apparently, I have changed more than my waistline in the las month.  My body no longer finds comfort in uber-sugar indulgence.  (Now I don’t mean to say I’m not going to have a brownie again–but I think half a brownie as opposed to two is a good plan.)  Amazing!

What’s even more amazing is that I avoided having the hair of the dog that bit me.  I knew I could assuage my stomach strain with a little sweet treat.  And Saturday night offered cupcakes with thick, creamy frosting.  They looked good.  But I still didn’t feel quite right.  And I decided to say no.  Wasn’t worth it.  Didn’t want to wake-up hung-over again.  One woman commented, You’re so good.  I don’t think it was being good so much as a matter of self-love and self-care.  I guess I am learning to be a better steward of myself.  And I discovered that this love tastes much better than brownies and ice cream.

Quotes for the week

“Ever’thing there is but lovin’ leaves rust on yo’ soul”–Langston Hughes

“We must alter our lives in order to alter our hearts, for it is impossible to live one way and pray another” –William Law

“Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly”–Philippians 3:19**

**I’m not big on the destruction selections in Scripture, but in light of the feeling in my belly, I thought this an apt excerpt

Riding the Roller Coaster with Anger, Fear, and Frustration

In the midst of the past week I re-covered why it is that right-sizing is so darn hard.  At least for me.  After two weeks of Weight Watchers, my home now stands empty of cookies, crackers, and chips.  Not that I had a ton of them before, but I kept a few.  My Just in Case Collection.  You know.  Just in case I had the impromptu game night, girls’ night, you name it.  Or really Just in case, it got to be night time, and my head started spinning, heart started surging, and I needed a quick fix.  Something to shove down the feelings I don’t want to face.   For me that means the triumvirate of anger, frustration, and fear.  I am not friends with any of these three emotions–in fact I was taught nice girls don’t feel anger and fear is something for the weak.  And frustration, well, that was ok before I started thinking about responding rather than reacting.  So, I started my Just in Case Collection.  I didn’t sample from it often.  Knew what I was doing when I did it.  And just like I’m doing now, could intellectualize and rationalize my choices to indulge.  But here’s the thing about that.  It never really resolved anything; it merely quieted my inner-life.  So, last week when I took the suggestion from my WW leader to literally trash the Just in Case Collection, I found myself back on the roller coaster with anger, frustration, and fear.  Three unwelcome guests.  And of course, for worship last week, I’m wrote the prayers of the people  based upon Matthew 5, where Jesus tell us to reconcile with our neighbor before we come to the alter.  So, I had to face it.  Not only my need to work on reconciling with others but with myself.  Of getting to talk with anger, fear, and frustration.  Of reconciling that these emotions are just as much a part of me as joy, sorrow, love, and hope.  Making friends with these pieces of myself.  How am I ever to reconcile with my neighbors if I can’t even accept all of myself?

Quotes for the Week:

“Anger as soon as fed is dead – / ‘Tis starving makes it fat.~Emily Dickinson

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”~Eleanor Roosevelt

“…leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:24).