Chasing Grace

I sit on the bed and pull on my compression socks. The socks are a recent addition to my running routine as six pregnancies have caused the veins in my legs to forget how to clot.

The socks are uncomfortable and difficult to put on, but I do it anyway because dealing with the puffy, purple ankles is worse.

I search the bed for my phone, grab my ear buds and walk to the machine.

Taking a few deep breaths, I spend a moment in motivational self-talk before I hop on the treadmill, adjust the settings, and start to move.

The first mile is the worst.

I think only evil thoughts:

how my calves ache from the socks, how I would rather be devouring a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey, how the music pumping through my ear phones is doing

nothing

to mentally motivate me to continue with this ridiculous task.

But I press on.

I try not to notice the trickles of sweat or the heaviness of my breath.

After awhile, the first mile is complete and I realize I haven’t died.

This no death from running is a victory because I was sure a few minutes ago someone would find my mangled body at the foot of the machine.

And while I don’t want to romanticize this whole physical exercise business, I also can’t ignore the fact that not only has the running not killed me, I also have

found

something while my feet pound in rhythmic motion, something that feels like grace.

I am good at many things, but athleticism is not one of them.

I’ve complained to my husband, John, who was once a Division one Cross Country and Track athlete himself, about this a lot lately.

“I look like a slug while I’m out there running!

If someone saw me, they’d laugh,” I say.

He flashes me a high voltage smile that makes my heart skip a beat.

“You are doing good,” he says.

“You’re moving; That’s half the battle.”

I think about John’s encouraging words as I’m huffing and puffing.

All good things are usually challenging and this thought motivates me to pick up my feet and put them down again.

I think about how I’m improving:

I’m no longer the girl who gets winded after two minutes.

If I hadn’t persevered through those first two minutes, though, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

I think about how in life we sometimes just have to grit our teeth to get through the hard of the first few minutes.

This has been my experience with family life as well.

I’ve had to bear down just to make it through certain moments but when I finally came up for air, I realized I was doing something I once thought was impossible:

raising six children.

Perhaps it is the physical pain and misery that moves my thoughts towards what is good, but inevitably during my run my mind drifts to John, whose serves our family so dutifully and so quietly I have to choke back tears. Last night, after he finished reviewing our son’s homework, he drove five miles up the road for three gallons of milk.

He came home with the milk

and

ice cream—the kind I like—and we ate it together as we watched TV.

People believe love is the stuff depicted on Hollywood movie screens, but from my experience real love happens when your husband wakes in the middle of the night to clean the baby’s puke and to give your other vomit covered child a bath.

Real love happens when he climbs back into bed exhausted, but still searches for your hand.

I think on these things as I jog, as my legs start to ache and sweat trickles down my back.

I think about my body, how it’s been good to me, even when I’ve been nauseated and haggard from fifty-four months of pregnancy.

I’m thankful I’m able to move, to use this temple well, though it means the kids ransack the pantry and take apart my living room couches while I do it.

I’m sorry for the times when I haven’t honored my body, for times when I haven’t eaten enough or I’ve eaten too much or I’ve abused it from lack of good care.

I hear the machine beep and my four year old appears.

“You finished?” she asks.

“I’m finished.”

I shut off the machine, renewed by the physical exertion and the insight into God’s grace in my life.

I offer a silent prayer, begging God to continue to help me see Him in all things.

“Help me to always desire to chase you, Lord,” I say.

I’m confident He won’t outrun me.