XXXI: Trail (Running) of Tears


I never understood teammates that I had played sports with in school.

If they missed the winning shot.
They cried.
If they scored the game winning touchdown.
They cried.
If they broke a state record.
They cried.

I never understood the emotional responses from these student-athletes that I knew through my education years. What could cause someone to be so emotionally distraught that they would break down and cry during a sporting event? In my mind that didn’t register as something that was acceptable. They were not professional athletes, there wasn’t a human life on the line…it…was…just…a…game.

***

For a few months I had been toying around with the idea of ‘trail running’. There really is marginal running, it’s more about technical footwork, strength, and a lot of hiking. I had established amazing friendships, found incredible support, and most of my nights have been spent traveling around dirt, single path trails along the countryside. It is brutal, it is hard, and yet there is something about surviving that causes you to want to do it again the next day.

This is the world of trail racing.

Saturday morning, 9:00 AM CST I stood in the grass with nearly 100 other souls at a local lake. People were holding bottles of water, vests held food and hydration packs, hats were on, shoes were laced, and the horn blew. We were the last group to take off during this day. An hour prior the runners that were partaking in the 20 Mile and 50K (31 miles) had already begun their journey. The group I was with was running the 10 Mile course. It was the ‘safe’ course for newer runners, compared to the hard mileage that laid ahead for the other two groups.

PS16 I

Real photo at mile 7. Credit: Mile90 Photography

I’ll be honest in saying that the majority of the event is a blur to me now. The air temperature was a stifling 96°F with an extremely dangerous heat index of 103°F. The weather, mixed with being in the woods, resulted in an absolutely awful environment to run for any amount of miles. The first several miles my stomach was tied in a knot. I had ran this course a week prior, I knew it was a hard course, but by mile 4 my legs were completely exhausted. They were too heavy to move. I was in a struggle for this race.

By mile 7 I began seeing signs that stated, “You’re NOT almost there, but you look fabulous” and “Chaffing the dream!” I knew that this meant I was almost to an aid station that was being manned by the group that I run with on Monday nights…the ‘mud babes’. At the station I heard cowbells, screaming, a hairy man in a bikini top, and was inundated with the questions of “What can I get you?” and “Do you need your bottle filled up? Get him a bandana with ice, he needs to cool down.” Within five minutes of that small oasis I was back on the trail for the final three miles.

There was support raining from the trees!

There was support raining from the trees!

Becoming part of the trail running community has shown me so many different sides of humanity. It isn’t necessarily the race that really stuck out to my emotionally/spiritual self; it has been the people that I’ve been blessed to be around. They don’t argue, they’re not mean, and they are not stuck on their ‘pacing’ from their GPS watch. They help each other out through every obstacle. As one person stated, “Trail running isn’t about you against everyone else. It’s you against the mountain, the distance, your demons, yourself.”. In a world that is covered in competition this sporting event requires you to depend on the person your running against in order to survive (literally).

Mud Babes 16 Birthday

Tonight we celebrated birthdays (Mine, Darco, and two others), and then we ran (and ate cupcakes afterwards).

Being around these people outside of just race day has caused me to question so much in reflection to my own connection and growth within my own faith. How is it that this group of people can drink a beer after a run, moon a camera, and carry on in the heat for 3 to 6 hours…and still get along with each other? Politics are not brought up. Work is rarely touched. Family is mentioned frequently, and the next ‘fix’ of a race tends to be the highlighted conversation. There isn’t music players attached to everyones ears, and there isn’t asphalt for miles all around. Everyone is coated in sweat and mud, not pressed in dresses and slacks. Uniquely, the closest connection I’ve found to the world that God created is everything apart from the stone-faced, mortar-laid, carpet-clean church that I’ve been in for so many years. There is transparency (sometimes way too much of it in relation to bowel movements) on the trail, whereas I find so many hidden agendas laced throughout personalities everywhere else. Ironically, running through the woods feels closer to God than being in church on a Sunday morning.

When you move throughout the trails and enjoy the company of those around you, there is an emotional bond that is being built that individuals like me aren’t aware of until usually when we cross the finish line.

***

PS16 VIThree hours and six minutes, a time that I will never forget. I remember seeing the clock slowly tick by as the finish line came up to my sweaty, soaked, mud-caked shoes. Three hours and six minutes I had been alone in the woods, fighting off fear and disappointment, dealing with extreme heat and loneliness; all to cross one line and acknowledge that I had completed something I never thought I could ever do.

I crossed the finish line.

I saw Darco waiting for me.

I wrapped my sweat covered arms around her, and buried my head into her shoulder.

And I cried…

-D-

XXXI: My Declaration


I’m sitting in my basement. The sun is shining through two windows and the blinds are currently drawn on the patio doors adjacent to this entertainment room. Above I can hear our two cats wrestling with each other in the living room. The laundry is caught up, washed, dried, and put away. We’re working on a way to correct our frame for our new bed so that our cats will not destroy our box springs (again). The kitchen is calm, dishes are washed, and I’m thinking of cooking ribs tonight for dinner. I washed my truck for the first time in six year. Darco’s tomato plant is growing, and our new landscaping in the front yard looks great thanks to my wife’s hard work. Her dress is currently drying in the summer breeze out on our porch looking over our backyard. We just learned that my wife will be receiving another ‘promotion’ within her company in the next six months. Granted, if I gave details she would be all bitter towards me for sure.

Later today, time permitting, Darco and I will drive six miles down the road and explore the trails that surround the lake that we live next to. Tonight Darco and I will attend Bible study with a group of people that are relatively close to our age. We’ll laugh, study, and talk about our positions in life and what we think God is directing us towards. In a few days MC and Jim will come to our house and we’ll watch the fireworks display that is being set off only two miles away from our neighborhood. Tomorrow morning I’ll run from our house, across the dam of our local lake, into the small downtown of our town. I’ll grab a cup of coffee, eat a cinnamon roll, and then run back to our house. Afterwards I’ll meet MC and Jim and we’ll depart to the city 15 miles south of our neighborhood. We’ll ride the streetcar, shop through the open air river market, and explore antique stores through the city’s old industrial sector referred to as the West Bottoms.

***

Between the founding concept of this website and the world currently outside my front door, negativity is something that plagues the world around me. Someone is upset, offended, hurt, or dead it seems every minute (maybe even more). Social media tends to be toxic with people arguing over what is right and what is wrong.

This world is a shockingly hard place to live in.

If I get wrapped up in what is so wrong with the reality around me I’ll miss the blessings that have already seen set before me. The truth is God is good and has blessed me tenfold in the past five years. I have a loving wife, a pretty entertaining job, and I live somewhere that I would have only imagined living in, in my own wandering dreams. I have central air conditioning…and tile floors…and a garage! God has given me more than I should ever deserve. Biblically speaking I only deserve death, so there’s that. I’m only curious, and this is solely directed towards the ‘Christians’ of the world. Whatever happened to us giving praise for the life we have? The enjoyment that we should never have had in the beginning? It is so easy to rely on God when the chips are down, but what about the other moments.

One of my objectives since 2011 was to experience life to its fullest. That included a crazy marriage, moving, and many different jobs. However, guess what, God has stayed faithful through every single moment of my life. He never left me, never forsake me, never gave up on me. He ‘s still right here, and I can’t express how comforting that is.

Let’s be real; I’m a divorced Christian that remarried to a woman who wasn’t even a Christian when we first met. I watch anime from Japan, teach middle school students, enjoy tattoos, running, and electronic dance music. Sometime during the year my beard is dyed different colors, and sometimes I even wear headbands when my hair is getting long. There is nothing, I pray, nothing about my life that fits the criteria of being a ‘Christian’ in today’s society.

Even thinking back to the days of youth church camps, mission trips, etc…there always seemed this unspoken urge to be sad, broken, or devastated about this, that, or the other. Don’t get me wrong, Paul, David, John, Job, and many others all tore their clothes for the sorrows of their own life’s and that of others. However, they also danced, rejoiced, and praised the high points of life.

I don’t think God expects us to be stoic.

I think God expects us to live a life worth living, and to reflect back knowing that we gave it our all and we had a blast along the way.

I will declare my happiness, my joy, and my peace at this moment in my own life. Darco and I are blessed, and I firmly believe that as a Christian couple it is our responsibility to not only seek God throughout our days, but also to give Him praise when life turns out in ways we could never dream of happening.

We’re praising. We’re blessed. God is good.

-D-

XXXI: Prayers of Laughter


We’re laughing in the middle of a prayer; God is going to be so mad at us…

Here’s the truth: Darco and I struggle to come to a middle ground when it comes to church. I struggle with music, but love deep, theological ideas through a sermon. She enjoys music…and people. Needless to say, we’re not exactly on equal terms, but we’re trying.

In recent adventures, through way of Google Maps and Facebook, we found a church near our house that had a young adult group that met every Monday night. We had come to the understanding, and both of us agree, that one of our struggles is not being around people our age. Not the people that are currently having kids (no offense), but the ones that are starting their adult lives, not rushing into families, and trying to make an impression on the world before being whisked away in the world of…family.

That’s when, while visiting this small church, we learned of the small group of young adults that met each Friday night at the leaders apartment a few miles away from where we reside. Last Friday, against all social fears that I could dream up, Darco and I traveled to this strange little apartment to be surrounded by a handful of people…that we’d never met, and that we knew absolutely nothing about.

The group was inviting, relaxed, chilled, and…wait for it…focused on humor, relationships, and faith. There was a quick devotion, some time for singing, and just talking about the real, unique problems that face people our age. Interestingly enough Darco and I are the only married people in the group. That’s an interesting perspective that I never thought I’d witness.

It was warm, comfortable, and inviting. Honestly, it was exactly what Darco and I had been searching for. There were people from India, South Korea, California, Missouri, Kansas, etc…fascinatingly diverse, but still unified on the same grounds of concept; faith, Christ, God, love. Even more awesome to me was the fact that not all the people there attended the same church. Some attended the small church we originally visited, some from a church near my school, and others from throughout the city. They came from all walks of life, and were respected for the unique quirks, concepts, and ideas.

Doctrine wasn’t discussed; only exactly what the Bible had to say and the encouragement to do better, dive deeper, grow stronger as  Christian and to rely on one another. It was so mesmerizing that Darco and I inadvertantly were there for nearly three hours last Friday night.

It was so fascinating that we decided to go again last night. Again, challenged to actually read the Bible, listening to people confess their shortfalls was so humbling to witness, and to know that people supported and prayed for one another was just jaw-dropping. It was basic and simple; it was something that I was extremely comfortable with. I was able to speak thoughts with this group, to listen, and to discover more about all of these people that are so seemingly close to same point in their lives as myself.

Consider it a blessing; I know that I do. It’s incredible that on Sunday nights I can witness the maturity of people and families that are established that we spend time with. On Friday nights it’s comforting being around believers that understand the similarities that each other are going through within the age establishment of the group.

Finally, it is the overcoming sensation of speaking to random strangers. I’m not one to enjoy heading out, being with groups, and talking about faith. That’s a rather stressful point of conversation I’ve learned over the years. However, there is something that can click within the individual to where a suppressed sensation of “this is safe, take a chance” becomes apparent. I consider this small blessing a large victory. It has been nearly nine years since multiple days throughout the week involved multiple groups of people. Again, I consider this gain. The temptation is be quiet, isolated, and individualized…the truth is that I need the fellowship, the wisdom, and the support of those around me.

Overcoming so frequently can become eventual blessings.

-D-

XXXI: No Apologies


Frequently I’m reminding of the adage that if you’ve been gone from your blog for a while, don’t come back as a writer…apologizing for being gone. The reality is that unless you’re a reality star, the world didn’t even realize that you were gone.

The earth keeps moving.

The earth is moving.

The earth moves.

Caught between a funeral and a deductible for a smartphone (this is a thing now); life just keeps moving in our weird, strange, and sometimes stressful household. My grandmother finally passed away, resulting in myself spending quality time with my family for four days in a town of 1000 people. My dream is to one day properly write down this event in text so that all can understand why life is sometimes as humorous as it is scary. The third quarter at school has ended and spring break begins on Friday. Overall, tranquility is a word that would be appropriate with the current trends of my own life.

At one point I was fearful of tranquility; equating it with compromising and settling. Things I feared, but sleeping with windows open, enjoying green grass, and running through our local community really has hit in stride with me the openness of seeing tranquility not as potentially just a sin, but perhaps also a blessing.

When the internal struggles of life calm down, that’s when we find our opportunity to critique, adjust, and learn about ourselves. With the quieter time that I’ve found in recent weeks I’ve started to take a closer look at the social aspect of myself…or…to be realistic; the struggle of it.

From school to church my social skills are in need of adjustment. In my head so many things make sense; I completely understand standing in the corner of a room listening to conversations without saying anything. That seems normal in my own mind, but that is a failure of understanding how it lacks of social drive of interaction with people around me. Last weekend, and this bothered Darco to no end, I found myself standing in the corner of our local running store. I had just finished my first race of the season, I was enjoying some snacks, and watching other people conversate within the building.

Turns out, as Darco stated sternly, I looked incredibly awkward acting as a grown version of a middle school wallflower. Internally, I understood that my choice was to observe not to interact. I didn’t want to interact because I wasn’t sure how, and just watching and analyzing topics of conversation was much easier. Whether that’s true or not is yet to be determined, but the potential body language that was shown toward my own teammates could have been rather poor. Even if the tendency was not meant to be negative.

School is a similar situation. I take sole responsibility for this; some instances throughout the year have shown that I struggle interacting with my peers. No worries dear reader; I interact with 12 and 13 year olds just fine. However, inside a middle schools it’s crucial that teachers work together. There is no greater sense of teamwork in elementary or high school; middle truly is where adults have to interact in order to lay the framework of success for our students.

Turns out that this is something that is a struggle for me. It doesn’t feel natural to listen, to accept, and not to work alone (I sound like some of my students in this sentence). I can say that it’s something that I’ve worked on throughout the school year; there’s some evidence of growth. However, it is still something that needs work.

Our church group is similar. Yes, I’ve gotten to the point where I’ll interact. However, most meetings are rather manic. I’m either overly bubbly, conversation driven or…like last week…I had no desire or need to communicate with the people around me. As you could imagine it always raises questions of if there’s something on my mind, if I’m in a bad mood, if I’m not feeling well, etc…

The overall point between these three recent examples is that I’ve been informed, shown, and demonstrated of an error that I have in my conduct between myself and people relative to my own age. At first that was a very hard pill to swallow. As time passed and meditation took place, I began to see that this has been a social issue that I’ve dealt with since I was a very young child. Sure, we could state that it was due to being raised as an only child, but Darco is actually really good at this social thing. I don’t know what the reason for the action, but I’m grateful that it has been brought to my attention.

Here is why:

If something like this had been shown to me five, ten years ago (it probably was); I would have brushed it off as something that was obviously wrong with everyone else. The arrogance of refusal in accepting that I’m at fault, I’m in error, or that I’m just plain wrong is something that I would have never admitted to. It pains me to type those words. With that said, I’m blessed to be surrounded by people at school, at home, and at church that have zero issues informing me that I’m ‘off’ in how I’m presenting myself to other people. To several, if not all of you, this may seem as such a small issue to have. For me, it’s almost a relief that I can internally accept the truth that I have issues to work on just like everyone else. Additionally, I like the fact that this is an example of an area to develop that doesn’t just affect life in one’s social setting, but also in their work environment.

How’s that for a random topic to type about?

This topic has been in my head and my heart for quite a while. I wanted to type about it so that I could feel secure about ensuring the ‘public’ knows that I have problems. It’s relieving for me because I’m willing to share a social development issue that I’m at fault for, and to state to the general public that it’s something I’m working on.

Consider the typing of this to be liberating if you will.

-D-

XXXI: Memories Become Fragments


Peace.

One of the first ‘rules of blogging’ is to not apologize to the reader when it’s been some time since you’ve last posted any thoughts on your own blog.

Honestly, I’m not sorry.

I would apologize, but doing so would mean that I’m regretting the time spent with students, time spent with my wife, and time spent…well…living life. It’s almost supernatural to consider how so many vivid memories become nothing more than just fragments of a bigger picture. Turning down the trail, a mile under my belt already early in today’s crisp morning, I tried to think back on the motivation that propelled me to run for so many years.

I couldn’t envision it. I couldn’t remember it. I couldn’t grasp it. The once horrific onslaught of guilt and corruption no longer could be found in my veins. Truly, I’ve been cleaned and purified.

I haven’t written because I moved on with the life that I still have, and I’ve in turn walked away from the life I once had. Nights of sorrow are filled with days of life. Days of frustration are filled with nights of peace. This is the best I’ve slept in nearly twenty years.

Is it alright to just claim the ability of healing and redemption? Is it alright to forge life on dreams? I’ve never felt so reckless in my life like now, and I’ve truly loved life no more than currently in this strange state.

Shopping for light bulbs? Sure!
Splitting wood for the fireplace? You bet!
Grading papers while the sun spills through the window? Wouldn’t want it any other way!

I’m curiously fascinated by Darco’s take on my desire to always run against the grain of the socially accepted. Moreso now because there are so many things to this life that I’m 100% good with. I enjoy living in the suburbs, running to the local coffee shop, and spending the evening with my wife. I’m happy that we don’t try to conquer the world after a day full of work, and I love waking up to the light peering through our windows each morning.

It’s not even the point of thanking God for getting me out of once was; it’s about thanking Him for what He’s currently provided me with. Nowhere can I find Jesus suggesting that we hold onto the scars of our past, I can only find the encouragement to learn from them. I don’t read about accepting eternal guilt, I find lines and lyrics of embracing eternal grace. Why…how…could I negate the works of my Father when He’s completely revolutionized my life? Not once, not twice, but everyday that I continued to find breath.

What I didn’t think, or even envision in my own life is that revolution spins around more besides just a divorce. I thought for years that, that was going to the pivotal moment of my life. My defining moment of the legacy that was left on this planet.

Can I tell you the one thing that I’ve learned since grasping that thought?
A divorce is only one piece of the entire puzzle of one’s life. It doesn’t define anything about the individual, it’s merely another struggle to overcome, accept, endure, and embrace when trying to figure out your place on this blue dot we call home.

Darco accepts my weird scars, but she also doesn’t let me get away with using them as a crutch. A divorce five years ago doesn’t dictate if I can do dishes tonight or not. It doesn’t excuse specific spending habits in the bank account. It doesn’t justify hostility and negativity towards other humans. It’s merely a point in time.

Can I be honest with you? Part of the reason I don’t write as much on this page is because there isn’t nearly as much to share. So much about clicks, views, likes revolve around dramatic, traumatic experiences. I don’t have them to share. The cat got a cold and I think I have a few cavities, but that’s as crazy as it gets. After living some of the strangest chapters of my life already; I’m just fine with admitting that life in the view of the world’s perspective is rather peaceful.

I’m alright with conforming and not fighting against God’s desire and plan.
I’m alright with just embracing the naive, novel idea of peace.

-D-

XXXI: No Formula


I did not go to church today.

I sat in our living room; marveling at the beautiful, frozen landscape that had created itself over the night.

My wife did not go to church today.

She sat beside me, half asleep, taking in the warmth of solar radiation and a pristine paralysis that surrounded her.

We did not go to church today.

Continue reading