On Falling

    This past fall I ran in the Equinox Marathon Relay in Fairbanks with two dear friends. I lucked out with the easiest leg of the relay – the first one. While my leg of the race contained more elevation gain than I have ever experienced in a race, legs two and three were absolutely brutal. One is completely uphill, and one almost completely down. The Equinox is a trail marathon and marathon relay. It was my first experience with trail racing.

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    The race was in September, which in Alaska means the temperatures could be anywhere from chilly-but-manageable to I-am-in-pain. That morning was beautiful, but cold. As a result we huddled in a gym near the start line until right before the race so our muscles wouldn’t get too cold. While standing there I heard my friend remark to another runner,

    “You know, it’s important to fall down during a race like this, because you need to learn that you can get back up.”

    That comment nestled itself into the back of my mind as I was shaking my legs out and preparing to run. I was nervous because I’d never done a trail race before and had no idea what to expect. I had only run road races before and cross country in Illinois, where an elevation gain of 2 feet is labeled a hill. I had never fallen while running, and suddenly I began to worry.

   The race started, the most relaxed race start I have ever experienced, and off I went. As I ran I started thinking, “maybe I do want to fall”. I wanted to learn that I could get back up.

    The thing about running is that every race, every run even, can teach us something if we let it. We just have to be willing to sit in the discomfort and pain to learn. I wondered if maybe this race was meant to teach me that I could fall and recover.

    Sure enough, about five miles into the race, my foot got snagged on an exposed root and I could tell I was about to fall. Instead of tensing myself up like I probably would have before, I tried not to let anxiety control my muscles, and I fell. It hurt, and my knee throbbed a bit. I was right by a group of volunteers who swarmed over asking if I was okay, and I smiled and told them I was fine. It hurt, and I was embarrassed, but I could tell I wasn’t injured.

    I got back up and kept going, and finished my leg of the relay. After it ended and I passed my race bib on to my teammate, I noticed a giant mud stain on my running tights where I’d fallen. I assumed when I washed them it would wash out, but it didn’t. I’m pretty proud of that mud stain. It is a reminder of what I learned during that race. Falling hurts, it’s embarrassing, and sometimes it can cause serious injury. But a lot of times it’s tiny aberration from what we’re doing that teaches us resilience.

    My friend’s comment helped me to not fear falling, but instead approach it with curiosity about what it could teach me. Looking back the Equinox is one of my favorite races I’ve run, primarily because it taught me that I can fall and get back up.

Winter Solstice

Yesterday was winter solstice, and we had 3 hours and 41 minutes of daylight. I finished grading my finals on Wednesday, and yesterday was my first day of winter break. I don’t take it for granted that I have a job where I get winter, summer, and spring break.

Yesterday I took Mac on a walk during the lightest light we had. It was about 11:15 am when these photos were taken. When I say that we have 3 hours and 41 minutes of light, it’s never really bright light. It’s more like the great poets Simon and Garfunkel once said: a hazy shade of winter.

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Starting today we have 7 more minutes of daylight with each new day. It’s so comforting to know we are on the upswing of light. This winter has been mild temperature-wise, but the darkness has been hard for me. I love knowing that the light is slowly but surely making its way back.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

Merry Christmas, my friends!

My Top 10 Books of 2017

One of my goals going into 2017 was to do more reading. I have always really loved to read, but struggled to find time to do it beyond reading whatever book I’m teaching. But I think it’s such a valuable practice, and it’s like using a muscle. The more you exercise it, the more habitual it becomes.

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I did not read these in 2017, but I did look at them in 2017.

So, here is the top ten books I read this year! Not all of them were published in 2017, but but they were new to me this year.

  1. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Read this if: you are looking for a thought provoking, but exciting read that deals with complex issues in a fascinating and enjoyable form.Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
  2. Free of Me by Sharon Hodde Miller. My favorite theology/Christian living book of this year, but also not a difficult read at all. Read this if: you want to be challenged, grow, and think about God more.
  3. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. I just finished this one recently. I was really curious about his new book, and it was an interesting if not sad perspective on mental health and teenagers. I love that he gives teenagers a voice that is valuable. Read this if: you want to learn more about an honest perspective on teenage anxiety/OCD.
  4. Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham. I was super curious about Lorelai Gilmore’s writing, and it did not disappoint. Read this if: you’re looking for the perfect, easy-mindless beach read.
  5. The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson. This was a top-rated historical fiction novel on Goodreads last year. It’s about WWI. (It was really nice to read about not WWII. Does anyone else feel like every book out there is about WWII these days?)  Read this if: you are looking for a historical fiction piece that is both interesting, easy to read, and deep.
  6. A Prayer Journal  by Flannery O’Connor. Honest and beautiful, this is a very simple prayer journal. Read this if: you want to learn how to pray with honesty.
  7. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris. Read this if: you need an easy, funny read with nuanced humor.
  8. Option B by Sheryl Sandberg. I heard rave reviews; this did not disappoint. Read this if: you want to learn about resilience, or are experiencing tragedy or grief in some capacity.
  9. English Lessons by Andrea Lucado. I love me a good memoir, and Andrea’s experience of growing up as a pastor’s kid really resonated with me. Read this if: you want an honest and easy read about Christian living and doubt.

And, drumroll, my favorite book this year…

Textbook Amy Krause Rosenthal by Amy Krause Rosenthal. Amy Krause Rosenthal, or AKR, as she calls herself, is a phenomenal and inspiring author. AKR caught my attention for her absolutely incredible Modern Love Column earlier this year about her terminal diagnosis and her husband. This book was my favorite of this year. Read this if: you want to think about life in a new way, be inspired, or enjoy unconventional writing.

On my list for 2018 include, so far, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller (I have been meaning to read this for soooo long), Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur, and Sisters First by the Bush Twins. What are your books to read for this new year or your reading goals? Please share! (And I’m not saying that in a “please comment on my post” kind of way. I genuinely want to know!).

(P.S. If you’re on Goodreads, be my friend! I love following friends and getting suggestions from Goodreads).