Thursday, September 27, 2012

The most important life lessons- Embracing the Suck yet again

Sometimes life gets in the way of regular posting and reading.  And I realize that it's o.k.  But every time I have sat down to write something it just seems trivial and unimportant.  While I try to separate my real life and my running lives into two different blogs, sometimes they mesh together.  Really, isn't that the whole point though, to take lessons I learn while running and apply them to real life?  That's what I'm trying to do everyday.  Few things teach me more life lessons than running.  So bear with me while I share some really personal experiences that have happened the last weeks and then maybe I'll be able to write again about the trivial things in life.

It takes a tragedy sometimes, to make you realize what's really important in life.  It's not that we don't really already know what's important.  It's just that it gets hidden and disguised by the busyness of everyday life.  My sister in law Mandi and her husband Jon had a beautiful baby girl 2 months ago.  It was a normal pregnancy.  We were all thrilled for her.  I remember just days before she had her that we talked about names and decor of the baby room.  It was also fun because another sister in law JaNae was also pregnant due about a month after.  I love all my nieces and nephews and love getting to hold them as newborns and watch them grow up.  

They knew right away that things were not right when little Scarlet was born.  She had trouble breathing on her own and couldn't swallow by herself.  But as the weeks went by and test after test was done, other things were discovered that were wrong and she wasn't getting better.  They transferred her to Primary Children's Hospital and almost immediately they had a diagnosis.  It wasn't good.  It was extremely rare and degenerative.  She was never coming home.  While we were sad, Mandi and Jon continued to amaze us and inspire us with their strength and faith.  And little Scarlet had a presence.  Boy, did her spirit radiate goodness, purity, and love.

Last week we got the news that the doctors had told them it was time.  Time to take their little baby off of everything keeping her alive.  I was shocked.  I didn't think it would come so soon.  And while little Scarlet was fading, things were not going to get better.  Only worse.  I could not imagine what they must be going through.  How do you make the decision to basically end your child's life?  How do you sit and hold your baby waiting for her to die?  I cried.  A lot.  Mostly for Mandi and Jon and what they were going through.  And not being able to do anything to relieve their suffering.  I've known Mandi since she was 12 years old.  I watched her grow up.  I watched her go through high school.  I watched her date losers.  And I watched her absolutely blossom when she married Jon.  She is one of the most beautiful people I know.  Both inside and out.  It hurt to see her look so tired; physically, mentally, and emotionally.  But spiritually, she was strong.  I knew they were going to be o.k.  No matter what they faced, they were going to be o.k. together.

Last Wednesday little Scarlet passed away.  It was heartbreaking.  Everything in my thoughts revolved around them.  Running became a time to cry alone behind my sunglasses.  Then and in the shower.  The tears were always there just under the surface.  Someone asked me about her when I was picking up the kids from ballet the day after she died and to my surprise I started sobbing.  It was unexpected that it was so close.  I was just so heartbroken.  I hugged my children a little tighter.  I savored each touch, each whisper, each "I love you".  Mandi never got to hear her little girl even cry.  She never heard her laugh.  Her arms were never wrapped around her neck.  And while all of this is beyond sad, I have great faith that the time will come when Mandi will hold her baby in her arms again.  I know that she will raise her and she will be her daughter forever.  I believe that her little body will be made perfect in the resurrection.  I believe that God is fair and just and all things will be made right in the eternities.  All experiences here will work together for our good.  It's hard to see now because we don't have the whole picture laid out in front of us.  But He knows.  He knows what challenges we need to grow.  Without this knowledge, I don't know if I would ever be able to be truly happy again.  

For a while now I've adopted Mike's mantra of Embrace the Suck.  It simply means that instead of looking for the easy way, I'm going to look for hard things in my life and then embrace them.  I quoted Jeffrey R. Holland a while ago where he said, "A life without problems or limitations or challenges - "life without opposition in all things" as Lehi phrased it - would paradoxically but in very fact be less rewarding and less ennobling than one which confronts - even frequently confronts - difficulty and disappointment and sorrow."  So instead of avoiding hills, I seek them out and run them.  When I had my stress fracture, I tried to embrace that experience and learn from it.  And I know that when I do, I grow.  It's never easy or fun to go through hard times, but it seems that during those hard times, that is when we grow the most, re evaluate what is really important in our lives, and when we can feel the love of God the most.  But only if we open our hearts enough to let Him in.  It's easy to see how someone could become bitter and close everyone out. And you could say, rightfully so.  It would be easy to never run again because it's too hard.  But in both running and in life, if we can learn from the hard times and open our hearts, we will be better for it.  We will grow and in turn be able to help others through their hard times.  

Kristen Armstrong has a quote that goes along perfectly with this. I'm glad to be here right now, poking at my threshold. I want to get more comfortable being uncomfortable. I want to get more confident being uncertain. I don't want to shrink back just because something isn't easy. I want to push back, and make more room in the area between I can't and I can. Maybe that spot is called I will.” And I know that when I get to the place where I have done all I can, that the Lord is there and He will take over.  Running for me has been a divinely physical, mental, and spiritual journey.  More than any other lesson taught, I have learned that I can do more than I thought I could.  And when I feel like I can't take another step, somehow I'm able to.  It might be slower than the first but it's still a step.  I have felt divine help more than once during a run and it translates into the rest of my life.  When times are tough, and I want them to be tough, I can keep going.  And when I feel like I've taken my last step and I've done all that I can do, He will lift my heavy load and He will carry me.  

While I would never wish for a challenge like my Mandi has behind her and in front of her, I am envious of the love that she feels and the spiritual events that she's witnessed.  It's rare that heaven feels so close.  And it's only because she has allowed it in.  She has embraced the suck in a truly magnificent way.  I admire her and Jon so much.  They are pillars of strength.  They are great examples to me.  I hope that when more hard times come my way that I will have learned enough to be like them.  

It got me thinking about hills and doing things that make me uncomfortable while running.  You don't have to have an injury or have things happen during a race that are out of your control, to embrace the suck.  So how does that apply in real life?  I don't think we have to wait for a tragedy or something hard to come along to embrace the suck in life.  We all have challenges in life, big and small.  I think that by working through those challenges with a smile and with gratitude we are embracing the suck and in turn it makes us stronger and more prepared to handle the big things in life.  And like the hills I seek out now, I can sacrifice more of my time to studying, prayer, and service to others.  Sacrifice.  With a smile.  That's embracing the suck in real life.   


Katie said...

This is such a beautiful post Jen! I am parying hard for you and your sister and BIL!

Amanda@runninghood said...

Ah, such truth here. Thank you for sharing this and pouring yourself into your words for us to read and learn and be inspired from. Beautiful. Embracing you in a big hug from Oregon.

Rachelle Wardle said...

Jen thank you so much for sharing this story. I truly appreciate your perspective and your strength. My thoughts and prayers are with Mandi and Jon and all of your family at this time. Everything happens for a reason. We may not understand it at the time but there definitely is a greater power and there is a reason. Love you my sweet friend.

Jen @ Run for Anna said...

Beautiful post. So, so sorry for your family's immense loss. Your faith is a wonderful example to me and it will see you through.

Tasha Malcolm said...

So sorry for your family's loss Jen. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post. Hugs.

Average Woman Runner said...

I'm so very sorry for your family's loss. Peace be with you all,

Mommy Run Fast said...

Oh, how heart breaking... my best friend lost her baby at 8 weeks (Down Sydrome and a heart defect) and it was awful. Thanks for sharing your reflections... thinking of you all!

Unknown said...

Jen, oh Jen... you have a beautiful mind. I will return to this post many times. I run Twin Cities marathon on October 7. Mile 24 to 25 is for Jon, 25 to 26 for Mandi, and the last little bit, the hardest, the part where we full on embrace the suck, 26 to 26.2, is for sweet little Scarlet. I will cross the line with tears. I will carry her name on my bib over the line. It's a good day to be alive, but it doesn't feel so.