A bad run.

I’ve mentioned here before that I’m training for a marathon.

This morning’s training run was awful. Okay, maybe not awful… but not good. Not good at all.

I just couldn’t move naturally. Everything felt heavy and stiff. I set the treadmill at a pace that normally feels easy and comfortable and natural to me, and I felt like I had bricks for legs. When I bumped to a sprint (it was an interval workout), I was panting like a dog. Normally my sprints light me up and then tire me out, but this one drained me right off the cuff.

I told myself right away that I would finish the workout, even if I had to walk a few times. I did let myself slow to a walk a few times during my easy intervals – though for no more than 45 seconds – and still felt out of whack. I did all six circuits, but I felt like garbage. Heavy, stiff garbage.

I just couldn’t get comfortable. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to discomfort. I’m training for a marathon after all. But there comes a point in every run when you just kinda settle into your pace and go. My eighteen-miler on Saturday felt like that. Once I hit a good stretch of trail, I found a rhythm and relaxed into it. I did get tired and my running got kinda wobbly, but I kept going without exorbitant effort.

Today? Not so much. I had to work for every damn step.

Of course, during the run I composed a comprehensive list of possible reasons why this particular run was so awful:

1. I didn’t warm up enough.

Possible. I really didn’t, and I hadn’t done a sprint workout in two weeks, so I could’ve just startled my body.

2. I’m still recovering from being sick.

Unlikely. I’ve covered over 20 miles since then without trouble.

3. I’m still recovering from my 18-miler.

Mildly possible. Yesterday’s run was fine, but there were no sprints, so maybe I’m not back in it for sprints yet.

4. I’m not cut out for speedwork.

I am finding that I don’t enjoy speedwork and much prefer to just go and let myself enjoy the run, but I think that’s preference rather than biology.

5. My supper last night was abnormal and didn’t fuel me very well.

Reasonably possible. I had polenta and roasted veggies last night. It was delicious but not a supper I have often, so maybe I didn’t get enough fuel out of it. The rest of my diet yesterday, however, was normal, so it couldn’t contribute that much.

6. I’m a terrible runner and I should just quit and who the hell am I kidding I can’t do this I want to go back to bed.

Yeah, this crossed my mind. I’m not proud. I also know it’s not even remotely true, because the mostly likely reason is:

7. Bad workouts just happen.

They do. There are bad stretches of everything in life. Bad days at work, bad nights of sleep, bad batches of cookies, bad relationships, bad friendships, bad fights with your sister, they just happen. Sometimes there’s no reason, and that’s okay. All that matters is that you decide when it means “quit” and when it means “brush it off, kid, and get back to it tomorrow.” See that list I made up there? Toss it in the garbage and just get back to it.

My dad always says that a really bad run is what makes you a runner. Being able to work through it, keep going, don’t let it discourage you, don’t let it make you feel like you can’t. Which is why I’m going to finish up this smoothie, take a shower, stretch it out in yoga today, and then get up bright and early tomorrow and get right back up on that treadmill.

Because I am a runner.

Also: let’s just talk about the fact that I managed to keep myself from making any digestive jokes about “bad runs.” Does this mean I’m an adult now?

Day 40: my happy place.

Okay, first of all, did anyone else realize that the forty days of lent only lasted until Palm Sunday? Because I did not. Embarrassing.

But that’s not what I want to write about. I just want to write about how happy I am with today.

I woke up and read a book in bed for a while. I did some foot-strengthening exercises as cross-training (did I mention I ran 18 miles yesterday? Because I did). I made some breakfast. I went to church, where my pastor gave a wonderful sermon about pruning thorns from our lives. I went to Trader Joe’s with two friends I haven’t seen in AGES due to our busy schedules. We went back to their place and went for a long walk. We had lunch together and caught up on our lives. Kristina did some work while Michelle and I curled up on the couch and did computer puzzles together for a while. Then I drove home and spent three hours puttering around my kitchen.

Three hours. Of nothing but kitchen time. Okay, fine, and watching Gossip Girl on the laptop perched on my counter. But all I did was play! How about a list of what I accomplished?

1. I put away all my groceries.

2. I reorganized my baking cupboard. I put nuts, seeds, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, and dried fruits into tupperware containers to get rid of the bag clutter, and it looks so much nicer now! Still some work to be done, but now I have a better idea of what I want the space to look like.

3. I cooked up some quinoa in preparation for another recipe.

4. I made chickpea cutlets from my favorite vegan cookbook. It’s a favorite recipe, which my carnivore boyfriend likes.

5. I made sunflower seed pâté from Thrive, to have for snacks for a few weeks. It’s pleasantly rich! I think it’ll be nice and filling, with a good boost of protein. Thrive is the greatest book, by the way. It’s about vegan nutrition for athletes (and general folks), and I’m slowly using more and more of his recipes, especially surrounding my workouts. The pre-workout pudding got me through my eighteen-miler yesterday!

6. I made banana bread energy bars, also from Thrive. I’ve been meaning to make my own bars for a while, and I can’t resist anything that has banana in it, so this seemed like a perfect primer. They’re in my freezer at the moment. Is it snack time tomorrow yet?

7. I made veggie crackers from – you guessed it! – Thrive. They JUST came out of the oven! Thrive author Brendan Brazier recommended them to go with the sunflower spread, so I followed his advice.

8. Oh, I did take a break in there to EAT one of my chickpea cutlets! I put it on a toasted ciabatta roll (an impulse purchase from Trader Joe’s – I love a soft ciabatta) with some of the sunflower spread and a pile of spinach. A lovely little supper, enjoyed while watching Gossip Girl. I keep it classy.

All in all, a very productive night spent in my favorite place – the kitchen! I can’t explain what it is about the kitchen, but I’m so happy in there. I love having my hands busy and getting up close and personal with my food. I love having a product at the end and knowing I made something delicious all on my own. Call me a ’50s housewife, but I love puttering around my kitchen.

It’s one of my spiritual gifts, I think. The only thing I love more than puttering around my kitchen is giving whatever said puttering produces to someone else. I love to cook for my boyfriend or my friends. I love to bring baked goods to church coffee hour or bible study. I love taking God’s raw gifts, turning them into something delicious, and sharing them with his people. It’s such an organic gift, something that goes straight into caring for the bodies he gave us. The bodies we use to do his work and love each other.

My happy place, folks, is the kitchen. Bon appetit. And amen!

Day 39: I missed another day.

I did. I failed yesterday. I was “round two” sick. It seems I jumped back into my normal routine too quickly after Monday and Tuesday’s horror show, and I paid for it by sleeping horribly on Thursday night and spending most of Friday on my couch. Every time I got up to do something or try going to work, I had to sit back down sixty seconds later because I was light-headed and fatigued. Awful.

So I apologize. My wits were absent and I didn’t have it in me to write, I guess.

Today, however, I was back to normal! I guess all I needed was a full day of true rest and recovery, because today I spent an hour and a half at the animal shelter and ran eighteen (!) miles before taking the train downtown for coffee and conversation with a dear friend and her other friend.

And what a blessing! My friend, Lindsey, brought me and Karen together because of our mutual interest in environmental ministry. Karen is working to buy space for a community garden and hopes to involve children and local churches in the process, and Lindsey hoped my plans to write a youth creation care curriculum for my seminary project would benefit her. She could be a test site and also a source of inspiration for me: what did she need or want from a curriculum? What would be useful to her? What could I give her? What feedback could she give me? Perfect.

For two hours we talked and laughed over soy chai teas (so yummy I may dream about them tonight) and very expensive dark chocolate (supporting small farms in Honduras is worth it). It certainly wasn’t fancy or exotic or wild, but goodness, what a good time! I learned, I laughed. I loved spending time with Lindsey, whom I always enjoy, and I loved meeting Karen. What a cool woman! She’s so honest and down to earth and genuine, yet so impassioned and so optimistic about her goals. Amazing.

God is sending people my way in droves as I think more about this project. And it’s beautiful. What a great God.

Day 37: gettin’ stuff done.

Just because I want to show off, here’s a list of all the stuff I accomplished after work today:

1. Caught up on all the dishes that didn’t get done when I was in school or sick.

2. Signed up for my CSA box.

3. Paid bills.

4. Made a student loan payment.

5. Emailed my uncle about a possible visit.

6. Registered for a race.

7. Cleaned out my fridge.

8. Made (and ate) guacamole.

9. Clean all the papers off my counter and recycled/stored them as needed.

10. Watched some Big Bang Theory (haters to the left).

11. Looked up some recipes and read a few articles.

12. Wrote this here post.

13. In bed with my book by 8:45 p.m. (forthcoming)

Nights like this are my favorite. I didn’t get started on cleaning out my closet, but maybe I’ll get a jump on that this weekend! I was reading about Project 333 today, and I’ve already eyed down my closet in passing. There are quite a few pieces hanging in there that will soon be under the line of fire.

I can tell I’m still recovering from being sick. I felt tired this afternoon after yoga, which usually perks me up, but the combination of that and my first run since illness was probably a little much. Also, my guacamole supper made my tummy just a liiiiittle fussy, probably from the fatty avocado and salty chips. Especially dumb since I almost never eat salty stuff anyway, so… yeah, it’s a learning curve. Thankfully, my body’s pretty tough, so as long as I put it to bed early (which is where I’m headed right after I click “Publish”), I should wake up feeling fine. I’ll be careful to drink lots of water and eat well and clean tomorrow, especially since I have to run 18 (!) miles on Saturday for my training.

Man, I feel good. My apartment still isn’t immaculate, but it’s on the way!

Hugs. Go clean something, it’ll perk you up.

Day 36: in which I get all crankypants.

I don’t know what the eff to write about today.

And it’s annoying me. This project is starting to make me feel resentment. Maybe because it’s every day, maybe because I’ve pigeonholed myself into a God-centered blog, maybe because I just don’t have enough interesting thoughts on a given day to crank out a meaningful post. I don’t know. Either way, I’m not feelin’ it.

I have a lot more things I want to write about. I want to write about why my vegan diet is grounded in my Christian beliefs. I want to write about running, my running tips, the races I’ve done. I want to write about going vegan and tips for eating a vegan diet and recipes for vegans. I want to write about social justice issues. I want to write about all these things but I’ve almost scared myself out of it.

Because the internet is full of people who are really, really mean. The ladies at TheFrisky.com sometimes post pictures of their outfits, and people actually post comments trashing their bodies. Seriously. Trashing their bodies, telling them they’re fat, ugly, out of shape, all this crap that is so unbelievably rude and hurtful.

And it doesn’t stop there. Christians bash each other for not being Christian enough or not following the bible correctly. Vegans bash each other for little slip-ups like not knowing the sugar they buy uses charred animal bone in the refining process. Women bash each other for being fat, men bash each other for being skinny, parents bash each other for raising their children wrong, kids bash each other for listening (or not listening) to their parents. When we’re hiding behind our screens, we can’t leave each other the hell alone. We’re MEAN.

And it’s terrifying! What if a Christian tears into me for supporting gay marriage and thinking the Westboro Baptist church is hurtful and cruel? What if a vegan shoots me down for occasionally drinking beer made with honey? What if a runner tells me I’m an idiot for preferring minimalist shoes? Do I just trust that God will give me strength and discernment in dealing with said folks? What does it mean to rely on him when a good majority of blog-hoppers don’t even believe he exists?

But then there’s the joy of being connected to other vegans, other runners, other Christians. Not everyone is so buoyed by the anonymity of the internet that they feel free to unleash their personal furies on everyone that pops up on their Google search. Are the thoughtful, considerate folks worth the threat of the hurtful ones? Is every enjoyable, thought-provoking conversation worth every person who starts a petty argument with no thought of considering the other person’s side?

I sure as hell haven’t figured out the answers to any of these questions. But here I am, once again, with a whole post when I started in confusion. Once the challenge is over, I can take more time to write my posts and edit them for thoughtfulness. I can open up my target audience with more topics. I can start building more pages for archives or specific subjects. But for now, I’m just bangin’ out words, scared of pissing someone off.

And sometimes having no idea how to conclude. So… yeah, bye.

Day 35: an explanation.

I missed two days of blogging. In a row.

Sunday, I chose to skip. I was with folks all day. I went to church in the morning and out to lunch right after. My friend and I spent the afternoon get our nails done, and then my boyfriend and I went back to church for a core team meeting. We then hung out at my apartment until fairly late, since we barely saw each other last week. By the time he left, it was past my bedtime and I knew I would feel nothing but resentment if I had to bang out a post when I was ready for bed. So I skipped, with every intention of apologizing yesterday.

Yesterday, I wound up getting so sick I could barely function. I first felt off-kilter just as I was leaving work and found myself shivering on the bathroom floor less than six hours later. I had chills and aches and muscle cramps. You know, your average miserable flu patient. I finally told my boyfriend to go home once I started throwing up. The sicker I get, the less I want company. Sniffles? Sure, hang out, dote upon me. Bad headache? You can stay, but keep your distance. Vomiting? Get the hell away from me.

Thankfully, it was a true 24-hour bug. I woke up absolutely miserable with aches and that icky my-skin-hurts feeling, but I spent most of the day napping, watching movies, and nibbling saltines and finally felt mostly normal by late afternoon. So here I am. Writing. And eating oatmeal. Real food!

I did have a surprising moment, though. It happened last night, after I’d kicked Jackson out and dragged myself from the bathroom floor to the couch. I was curled up under my blanket, being totally pathetic and making noises halfway between a whimper and a sob. I was so uncomfortable, so miserable, so unbelievably sick that I actually started talking to God. I wouldn’t call it formal prayer, per se, but I was asking, out loud, for him to help me, to heal me. Please, I begged.

I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. I’m still learning how to turn to God in time of need. A few months ago, I was upset over a hurtful comment and cried it all out to God himself, but this time I was just physically miserable. And I asked him for help. I didn’t notice a marked difference, but just asking for his help… helped.

And he clearly listened, since I’m now halfway through this bowl of oatmeal with nothing but happy sounds coming from my tummy. To think I had my chin on the toilet seat not 24 hours ago… God is good indeed.

Hoping you are well.

Day 32: an excerpt from today.

For the tree’s leaves are for the healing of the nations.

Day 31: the need for hope.

These few days of class have opened my eyes to just how much work needs to be done in order to save the planet.

Let me tell you: a lot of work needs to be done.

It’s overwhelming. It’s scary. It’s discouraging. There is so much healing, so much changing, so much patience needed to reverse the damage we’ve done. How can we rewrite so much of our cultural and ethical codes? How can we convince our fellow human beings to radically change their habits? How can we possibly do this on our own?

One of my professors quoted John Cobb, a process theologian:

“Without God’s initiative, I have no hope.”

God is the answer. God is the one upon whom we lean. God is the catalyst, the guide, the hope.

So many times today, I felt crushed by the enormity of our task. Until I recalled those words and remembered: God will see us through.

Katie Davis is a missionary in Uganda whom I admire deeply. Her book holds as much inspiration for me as the bible. She writes of a time when she left Uganda for a stint in the states, and how during that time she lost touch with God. She was surrounded with counterfeit gods that fulfilled her basic needs and thus did not rely on God and on prayer to get food on the table and heal the sick. It was not until she returned to Uganda that her relationship with God was restored, when she had to rely on him every single day.

This is us. We are hurtling toward our own destruction, moving so quickly that we cannot save ourselves unless we act now. Unless we rely on God.

Remember yesterday? Turn to God. Be in his image. Lean on him, rely on him, have faith in him. If we do our part, he will do his. He will give us hope.


Day 30: the image of God.

Human beings are made in the image of God.

This is one of the most familiar notions of Christian thought, something we’re taught as children. God made you in his image. God made you to be like him.

One of my professors offered a really beautiful way to look at this: think of it like a mirror. We are a mirror image of God, but only when we are turned toward him. The minute we turn away, we are no longer in his image. In the language of Genesis, God makes everything to flourish. God sees that it was good. God nourishes, sustains, loves. We are his appointed stewards of the earth, the ones he delegated to rule over it. If by our behavior we are eliminating species of animals, we are no longer in the image of God. Because God makes everything to flourish, and our behavior makes everything to die.

What’s more is that our arrogance isn’t even biblically rooted. We were indeed given God’s decree to care and perhaps rule, but we weren’t spun from the divine. One of my professor’s was the primary Genesis translator for the Common English Bible, a new translation, and explained Genesis 2:7 thus:

Here’s the NRSV translation: “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.”

Now, “dust of the ground” permeates our church language. You are dust, and to dust you shall return. But my professor explained that the Hebrew words in this passage are used in agricultural contexts in the rest of the bible and thus better translate to “topsoil of the fertile land.”

God didn’t make us from dust or dirt. God made us from soil, fertile and abundant soil, the very substance from which earth gives life. We are of the earth and we are grounds for growth, for nourishment, for feeding and sustaining the rest of creation. Isn’t that beautiful?

Let me take it a step further. My professor also offered Genesis 2:19, where the man, Adam, calls the animals to him.

A segment from NRSV: “whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was its name.”

The same segment from CEB: “The human gave each living being its name.”

Now let me explain this translation. In Genesis 2:7, man becomes a “living being” when God breathes life into his nostrils. The Hebrew word in that verse, the one that becomes “living being,” is the same word as Genesis 2:19 that we commonly translate to living creature. In the original Hebrew, human beings and animals are described using the exact same word in these two verses of the creation story. We are living beings. This previous translation set us above the animals with a different word, essentially tricking us into difference (at least from my rather bitter perspective). Isn’t that… kind of annoying?

So we come from the soil, the earth. We are living beings much like the animals. But we are in the image of God when we face him, when we look toward him, when we see that the natural world is good and we make it to flourish. That’s what sets us apart, it seems: the intention. Turning deliberately toward God and taking his values into our hands, spreading his love to the four-legged and green-leaved alike.

But we pollute the earth. We make our meals from animals who were battered and tortured and disrespected. We generate more garbage than the earth can hold. We bulldoze acres of rainforest to make room for our own interests. We consume consume consume and turn a blind eye as the earth suffers for it. We have turned away from God’s image. We are no longer facing him.

I am no longer facing him. I am convicted.

What do you think about this?

Day 29: first day of school!

Today was the day! I started classes at a seminary in town, working toward my certificate of environmental ministry and leadership! We didn’t do much today in terms of actual study. Mostly just introductions and a field trip to the dump (yeah, you read that right). However, I did promise a list of tidbits. So here we go.

1. Three of my classmates have a science background: one in physics, one in chemical engineering, one in environmental biology. They all agree that their relationship with God was strengthened through their love and appreciation for science. Isn’t that kind of beautiful?

2. One of my classmates recently adopted a cat from the shelter where I volunteer. A cat whom I adored. This particular classmate is an excellent match. What a little blessing :)

3. There is a world class golf course in southern Chicago built on top of a landfill. This golf course has no trees because of the plastic liners that are used to keep the waste under control: tree roots would tear the plastic and release fumes and toxins.

A short list. There will be more tomorrow: we’re digging into the theological and biblical resources!