Friday, October 17, 2014

Running all the races

As a freshman and sophomore in high school, I ran on the track team.  I started late my first year, which meant that my goals that year were to simply not be the last one to cross the finish line.  Occasionally, I succeeded.  This made me determined to push myself harder as a sophomore.

And I did, and it was hard!  It seemed like practice was so much harder my second year than the year before.  Some days, the practice plan that coach had laid out for us didn't seem too daunting, but then he would change it half-way through and add an extra half mile or so of sprinting.  I remember telling him one day that he was a liar for changing the plan half-way through.  He replied, "I'm not a liar, I'm a coach.  Go run."

For most of the season, I was mad at him.  Partially because he would change the practice plan, and partially because he made me run every distance race at track meets.  Which wasn't too bad, except for my least favorite event - 2 mile run.  Which almost always came first.

One day, our bus pulled up to the track five minutes before the 2 mile run began which gave us no time to warm up and barely any time to stretch.  Still, we ran.  And I was so angry.  That same meet, we ran a 4 by 800 m relay, where four people each ran a half-mile.  Coach put me in charge of getting a team together, and it took the whole meet to coerce my teammates to run it with me.  No one wanted to do an extra race.  We came in last.

That day, I ran the 2 mile race, 1 mile, half-mile, and the 4 by 800 m relay.  That's 4 miles at race pace.  I was tired and resentful.  For some reason I didn't understand, my coach wanted me to run all of the races.  It was hard, because you have to pace yourself on the ones that aren't your mail goal.  If I were to run full out on the 2 mile race - which was usually first - I would probably end up last in every other race that I ran.

The other day, I was thinking about this.  It's been years since I ran a race like this.  As a junior and senior in high school, I stopped running track so that I could start taking private lessons for violin.  I haven't really thought about Coach's methods very much since then.

What he was teaching me about racing was something that I needed to know about life.

First of all, I need to be willing to work hard.  Most days, practice wasn't fun.  I didn't go home afterwards thinking, "Wow.  That was really nice.  I hope we do that again tomorrow."  But it was harder because I was pushing myself harder.  In fact one day, I almost passed out after a hard practice where we ran short, but steep distances up a hill over and over again.  I was making myself run as hard as I could, because I had a goal - cross the finish line before at least half the people in the race.  It wasn't a super goal, but it was mine, and I was going to accomplish it.

Second, and maybe more important than the first lesson, was to prioritize.  As a freshman in college, I wanted to do my best in everything.  I wanted to get the best grades in all my classes, do my best at work, be the best roommate, be the best friend, etc.  I had heard some stupid motivational talk about how if you do something, do your best at it.

What this person didn't explain is that I can't physically or mentally be my best in everything.  I just can't.  That doesn't mean that I can' do a good job at things, but if I try to run full speed in every aspect of my life, I'm going to get burnt out.  And when I get burnt out, I shut down and can barely do anything at all.  Prioritize, pick the most important thing and run as hard as you can there.  On the things that fall below this level of importance, still do them.  When I begged coach to actually let me not run my 2 mile race, I always felt unfinished.  I was tired, yes, but I had enough energy and time to do it.  Not running it was worse than running it, because I felt like a failure for not doing it.

What is my "favorite race"?  What is my top priority that I am going to do my best in?  What things need to fall down to the level of "the 2 mile race", and that I simply need to get done but not worry about?

I'm learning that these things can change daily.  Some days, I need to work hard on my homework, either to study for a test or to write a big paper.  On those days, dishes, laundry, and sometimes even classes are my "2 mile race".  Some days, I need to focus on myself and doing the things that I love.  Sometimes I need to focus on dishes and laundry.

My top priority never really changes, though.  Building and maintaining my relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will always be more important than anything else.  Loving and serving my husband is just below that.  When I let these things become a lower priority, I start to struggle in balancing my life.  When I have them as most important and I am working hard, everything falls into place.

As much as I resented him, I am so grateful for a coach who understood what I needed more than I did and pushed me to help me be stronger.  I challenge you to consider your priorities, and what races you are putting your best effort into.  If it's not a priority now, I urge you to build a relationship with God and ask if He is there.  Prayer has been a life changer for me, and I hope that it can be for you as well.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Chapter 5: Jordan's Story

Honestly, our first date was kind of uneventful.  We went up the canyon and hiked a beautiful, terribly steep trail.  Afterwards, we went to my apartment to eat dinner, and then watched a movie.  By this point, I was so comfortable around Jordan that it felt totally normal to be with him, even though it was our first date.

As the movie finished, Jordan asked me what I wanted our relationship to look like.  I wanted to keep dating, and he wanted to take it slow.  I wasn't sure what that meant, so I talked with my roommates about it, and I was still confused.

Even without that, our relationship was a little awkward.  We weren’t together officially, but we were going to keep dating to see if we wanted to be together.  Jordan’s work didn’t give us many opportunities to go on dates.  He drove down to Kaysville a couple days a week, sometimes spending the night with family so I didn’t see him nearly as much as I wanted to.  For some reason, he was holding back.

A year before this, I had written a poem which I loved.  I’ll put it at the end of this post if you want to read it.  As I thought about Jordan and tried to understand why he was holding back, I decided to email a copy of the poem to him.  I desperately didn’t want him to think it was cheesy or pull away more from me.  But as I prayed and thought about him, I felt like it would all be okay.

The Sunday after I sent him the email, he asked me if I wanted to go on a walk with him after church.  Just the way that he worded his text message was very different from how he had talked/texted to me before.  Though he didn’t say it, I knew that he was going to talk about our relationship – whether good or bad, I couldn’t tell.

We walked up a similar trail, though this one was blessedly flat – and gorgeous!  It was mid-October, and the leaves were changing and it smelled amazing.  We found a bench along the trail that looked out at the canyon and the river running at the base.  As we sat, a muscle under Jordan’s eye twitched slightly - not like he was crazy, but the kind of result from stress or nerves (it’s such a small detail, but I remember it vividly) and he started to tell me his story.

Jordan experiences same-gender attraction.  Though he didn’t recognize it at first, and didn’t choose it, it is a part of his life.  I was one of the few that he had told at that time, and he asked me, very quietly, to be very careful in whom I chose to tell.  Even though he had these attractions, he was determined to marry a woman in the temple and to have a family, to keep the commandments and to live in a way that honored the covenants he had made with God.  He shared his struggles, his hopes, and his dreams.  I have had few experiences that are as sacred to me as this conversation with Jordan, where he opened his heart completely to me.

He told me this so that I could decide if I wanted to continue dating him.  Almost immediately, I felt peace that it would be fine.  I chose to wait for a couple days before I decided.  I wanted to think about it so that my decision would be solid, either way.

Let’s just say that I don’t remember anything from classes that next day.

This decision, to continue to date Jordan or to just be friends, hung on my mind constantly.  I knew that no matter what decision I made, it would impact the rest of my life in a very definite way.  God had already told me that I was supposed to marry him.  Did that still apply?  Every story that I had heard up to this point was of men with same-gender attraction leaving their wives to live a gay lifestyle.  Was I willing to risk that?  Was I willing to risk letting him go completely, and never pursue a relationship with him?

I drove home and talked with my mom that Monday.  For the first time, I cried – not about me, but about his pain, of being so alone.  My mom comforted me and told me about a story she had read about a couple where the man has same-gender attraction.  Their story gave her understanding to help me not feel afraid.  After talking with her, the peace that I had felt while talking with Jordan came back.  Not only did I feel comfortable in continuing to date Jordan, but God was letting me know that he supported that decision as well.

As I got ready to call Jordan to tell him about my decision, I felt a very distinct prompting from God.  “He isn’t always going to be this way.”  For a long time through dating and marriage, I prayed that God would heal Jordan.  I was expecting the trial to just disappear completely.  That’s not really how God works and I know now that's not what he meant.  Yes, He has the power to heal anyone and anything.  Sometimes, He gives us an opportunity to grow instead.

Once I stopped praying for this to be taken away and started asking what I needed to learn, our world changed.  This fall has been one of incredible growth for Jordan and me.  What used to be a topic of fear and confusion has become one of hope, healing, and joy.  Yesterday, Jordan posted on his Facebook feed about his story.  The outpouring of love that he received was so much more than I expected.  He’s not afraid anymore of letting people know who he is.  I am so glad that I am married to such a brave, strong man.


We’ve all had that moment

When our heart cracks in two.
It hurts, and it aches,
And there’s nothing to do.

As time passes on
The pieces, they mend.
But the scars are still there
Like a curse without end.

We smile and laugh
And pretend we’re alright.
But deep down inside,
We feel a strange plight.

For you see, there is fear
That the pain will come back.
And the fear just won’t leave
While those scars hold the slack.

“You… love again?”
They mock and they scorn.
“You’re such a fool,
Your memory, so short.”

And so we hold back
When we should take a chance
And moments and treasures
Slip through our hands.

If you understand
What I’m telling you here,
I have a secret
To dry up your tears.

The key to unlock
A scarred, hungry heart
Is to close your eyes
And begin at the start.

Each new day
Look for someone to love
Someone who’s hurting
And can’t trust to love.

Lift up their hands
And lighten their load.
And silence their scars
From holding them low.

And as you move on
Lifting each day
Your scars, they’ll slowly,
Slowly fade.