the hardest part

This week, and the following two weeks are the most difficult parts of my marathon training, physically and mentally.  I can’t explain it, and if you’ve run or trained for a marathon, you know.  Physically I’m strong, actually I’m probably in much better shape than last year’s race, and faster, but basically I’m constantly eating, or trying to.  Hasn’t been working out too well for me lately.  Food has been making me sick lately.  Mentally, that is where the real work and challenge begins to happen.

Last Saturday, I went out to run 16 miles, and I literally, out loud was like, “Why am I doing this??”.  There is nothing sane about it.  Let me be the first to tell you.

Next Saturday will be my longest run, and the both physically and mentally extremely challenging.  Twenty miles.  I’m trying to convince a few friends to meet me and ride bikes with me at least part of the way!  (Please guys, seriously think about it!  Emily’s response, always: “I don’t even like driving that far!”).  It’s demanding, and I always want to give up, but yet, after finishing, it is one of the best feelings I’ve ever known.

I know I’m in for a real interesting time, thinking about the actual race.  My training barely reflects what the actual marathon will be like.  Not only is it international, but I will be battling jet lag, culture shock, not to mention the race begins at 3 a.m. (forget my “dress rehearsal” of doing everything exactly like the race- YEAH RIGHT!), and the conditions of the race will be extremely humid, and the air will be thick with pollution.  Sorry, but there’s not really anyway I can really simulate that, nor would I want to even try.

Anyway, I’m not writing a blog to complain, though I could, but rather outlining the challenges, and knowing that as life too, you can prepare all you want, but until you are handed the cards, there’s no knowing what will happen.

Alright readers, happy trails to you.  Let me know if anyone wants to run/bike with me Saturday!

Worship and running. It’s all training.

This was an article I wrote for our church email newsletter last fall, but I was reading over it as I’ve begun training now for the Bangkok Marathon, and reminded of the discipline in our lives it takes not only for physical things, but also in our expression of worship… (October 15, 2010)

FBC weekly

Staff Corner
Meridith Johnson, Director of
Worship Ministry
One step at a time.
     Many of you may have heard or knew that I ran the Portland Marathon this past Sunday, and the only way that I was able to accomplish this life-goal of mine, was to run one step at a time.  The last few miles of the 26.2 mile race I verbally repeated to myself over and over, “it’s almost over, I’m almost done”.  And then, before long, I did finish.  I ran the race.  I accomplished a goal.
     Now you may ask, “I thought this report was about worship?”, and yes, it is, let me get to that.  You see, I’ve never been an athletic person, I was a cheerleader in High School, and could hardly run a mile until I was probably 21.  But with perseverance, practice, and discipline, I trained for shorter races, and soon the distances I once thought were hard and unbelievably long, became easy and didn’t seem as long as they seemed to be.
     Worship is something we will never really understand, or comprehend, but through Scripture, we see that as God’s people, it is an act we are commanded to do.  Something happens when as a church, we gather and corporately praise God and verbally sing, say, and pray what we know to be true of our God.  Just like the marathon I ran, I had no idea what the experience would be like until I began training, and working at doing something I wasn’t comfortable with.  Worship I would say is the same in many respects.  When we ascribe that our God is worthy (where we get the word “worship”), sometimes it is uncomfortable and sometimes we don’t feel like worshipping, but the end result and goal is always accomplished when we are willing.  God is always lifted high, and his name is glorified.
     During my months of training, some mornings I would wake up only to see it was way too early for anyone to do anything on a Saturday, then eventually I would stumble out of bed to run.  Sunday mornings, or all mornings our worship may feel the same way to us, like a chore.  But when we worship, Psalm 22:3 says that God inhabits the praises of his people.  Other translations for this Hebrew word yashab are “to dwell”, “to remain”, “to sit” or “to abide”.  This verb implies God’s action on his part to dwell and be among us when we worship him.  There is something uncomfortable about the idea that God dwells with us when we worship, the living God, among us, his people.  The experience is indescribable, but worth the effort of our time and attention.
     Now, many of you have never run a marathon, and maybe never will, but you can choose to work at your personal worship and as a body our expression of praise corporately as a church.  This weekend, may you worship God in every word, activity, and breath, and on Sunday, every Sunday, may our sacrifice of praise be authentic, and change our hearts and lives.

no rest for the weary

With all my heart and soul, I always long for summer.  I look forward to the long, sunny days and often am nostalgic about the heat, and staying up late with friends talking about hopes and dreams.  Unfortunately I think the last time I stayed up late with friends basking in the warm evening air was probably college.  Yea, I’m pretty sure.  Anyway, but I do always look forward to the warmer days and nights… except I always forget: I CAN’T SLEEP WHEN IT’S HOT!

I think my room is about 15 degrees hotter than the rest of the house, because it faces west, where the sun sets.  LAME.  Yes, I’ve tried fans, I sleep with only a sheet… everything.  Nothing helps.  I really, honestly sleep best in the cold, it’s weird.

Anyway, along with the summer come temperatures much too hot and uncomfortable for running, so, I try to get in the habit of waking up early and running.  So, combine not being able to fall asleep in heat, and being anxious about waking up at 6 a.m. and that means hardly no sleep.

But there’s nothing like waking up early and going running, even with little sleep.  Sloppy form, heavy breathing… but a still, quiet morning before a busy day is so worth it.  Our house sits in a newer neighborhood, but is just next door to the “country”, so I can run the country roads, say a friendly “hello” to the horses and cows as I run by.  Today as I went on a quick 3-mile jaunt I was reminded of Nagaland, India.  Daniel and I would wake up and go for runs early in the morning, and all the locals seemed to stare at us, like we were so strange for going running.  Or it could have been that it was obvious we were foreigners because of what we looked like, but also because we looked like fools, running up and down the long, main road that seemed to stretch for eternity.  The air was thick and warm, much too warm for 6 a.m., but we went running anyway.  The women with their water jars balanced on their heads, and the men pulling their old wooden, heavy carts down the road, with an occasional car zipping past us.  Those were good days.  Those were simple days as I processed through 4 long years of college, and looked forward to dreaming new dreams ahead of me.

Today reminded me of being overseas.  Hearing roosters crow as I ran my usual loop reminded me of everywhere but here.  India, Thailand, Nicaragua, Mexico… everywhere.  But.  Here. Anywhere but here.

It’s funny how we often perceive life to be.  Seemingly insignificant moments can quickly catch us off guard and become significant moments.

Though I feel restless, I’m thankful and grateful.  Thankful for the past memories, and grateful for grace as I look toward the future.

Along these roads, we used to run, with the rice fields all around, and the beauty of India:


Miss our chats and runs Daniel!!

forward.

pacing.  walking.  turning.  breathing.
sleep.  wake.  eat.  breathe.
repeat.
and repeat again.
and just keep going.
keep on running.

almost there.  almost past it.  almost back to the beginning.
then i’m one step behind where i thought i was.
just keep going.  you’re almost there.  one more step.
will i ever be there?  will it ever be over?

will the sting ever really go away?  without it just being masked?
can a small piece of scotch tape really fix what stitches, or surgery should fix?
can the pain ever be taken away by a temporary fix?
momentary distraction?

a rush of cool water.  to make the blood wash away.
a disinfectant.  hurts.  yet can heal.
a binding bandage.  thick enough to cover it.
stop touching it.  stop picking at it.
let it heal.
but sometimes, i just can’t.

washed in the water.  cleansed by the blood.
already.
a long time ago.
washed and cleansed.
FORGIVEN.
HEALED.

but sometimes i relive the pain.  to know the experience was real.
to remember i’m real.
to recount what might have been my fault.
to second guess.

stop picking at it.
LET IT HEAL.

and just keep running.
toward the goal.
the heavenly prize.

forward.  move forward.

i know

It’s been a while.  I can’t believe I’ll admit this on cyberspace, but previously, at my place of employment, wordpress was unblocked, so some of my posts (and ideas for posts) came while I was at work.  That’s all changed now.  It’s blocked.

At work is usually the time I have to sit and think about serious theological issues, or life.

Now, I’m at home, contemplating life.  Decisions.  Why things are the way they are.

Some of you, blogging was a great way for me to stay in touch with you all, but seems many of us have fallen off the blog train.  Come on people!!

Well, it’s February 21st.  I’m looking so forward to Spring, you have no idea.  I can’t wait for the days to be longer, to run every single day (and actually WANT to run), dream, laugh, run through fields of grass…. okay maybe not that, since those of you who know me well know I get the WORST allergies in the spring that seem to last forever.

We head back to Nicaragua in seriously just a few short weeks… 3 weeks I think?  I’m getting more excited about it, much more than our first trip.  Nicaragua isn’t the first place I’d choose to go on a missions trip, but I’m learning to see God’s heart in it all, and to embrace the fact that something that’s been really close to my heart is again apart of my life… travel, people, culture.  I’m blessed.

Well, this blog was really just to tell you all I’m still alive, if anyone still reads.

Blessings.

life in photos

I just now found some photos on my phone that I thought might be worth sharing…. Quality isn’t amazing, but gives a look into some of the things I’ve been up to.

Dulcimer strings arrive in the mail (ebay… paid like $4)

Order of service… this is what I do…

Perhaps someday these fortunes will come true…

Eggplant parm.  Eggplant from Mom’s garden, made complete with spaghetti noodles.  Come over, I’ll make you some.

One of the joys of getting up early and running… sunrises.

life seems to keep going

It’s crazy.  It’s August.  Summer is slipping by, but for some reason I’m okay with it, I’m looking forward to the cooler Fall days, and all that comes with that beautiful season.  Weather, and seasons seem to be able to transport you into places you long forgot, that happened to me today.  I was walking from one place to another at work, and noticed that the sky had begun to cloud up, which has happened a few times this summer, but never really started to rain.  Today was different, I could feel that it was going to rain, which actually is pretty unusual for us here, we don’t have Thunderstorms or ran much in the summer.  Strangely, I was taken immediately back to Thailand, naturally of course.  I just wanted to stand outside.  Soak it in.  Everyone always asks me, Do you think you’ll ever go back?, in fact I was just asked that again last night.  My answer is the same… I don’t know, maybe someday.

I miss it.  I miss all of you, my friends who maybe or maybe not still read my blog.  It doesn’t seem like that long ago we all arrived, met, and began our year-long adventure together, but it has been 2 years since that year began.  Crazy.  Some of you are still there, going on year number 3, 4….or longer.

The thing is this: life just continues moving on.  Never stopping so we can catch a breath.  It’s like a never ending marathon run… (since everything these days seems to relate back to running).

It’s still raining here.  I’m hoping the clouds will clear soon so I can go on my 4-miler today.  It might not.  I might be running in the rain.  Fun.

I was pointed to a few verses by several people day… just wanted to pass them along.  Psalm 3:3-4 “But you, O LORD are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.  I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill.” Psalm 34:10b “but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing”.

Last, but the best.. listen to this song.  Amazing.  I’ve been listening to it everyday, all day for the past few days.  For those who are thirsty, drink.

And I am desperate for Your touch
a glimpse of heaven through the glory of Your son
In a moment You can turn a life around
forever to be found in You

And I’m reaching out to find
there’s nothing greater then the love that holds my life
Your grace and mercy save me by Your blood
and swept away my shame away O Lord


Your love is like a fire, that burns for all to see
My only desire to worship at your feet
So let this fire consume my life
Let Your love take me deeper
draw me closer to where You are
’cause all I want is more of You
When you call I will follow
At the cross I surrender all
Jesus I belong to You

And I am surrendered to Your love
forever humbled by the message of the cross
I stand in abandoned in Your presence and embrace
I never be the same O God

Grace and peace to you.

wrapping up week #8 of training!

Dearest readers,

Maybe these marathon training updates bore you, but this is my reality, so here you go.

Long runs.  Those of you who run races much know the concept.  Basically, one day a week (usually Saturday or Sunday, depending on schedules) you push your distance gradually, including some taper weeks, so you can work up to the distance you will run on your race.  Many people have the misconception that people training for marathons run long distances every day: not true.  Rest days are just as important as any other day of the week.  Anyway, long runs are a chance to build mental focus, and just help log more milage for the week for you too.

My confession: the past 4 weeks or so, my entire life has been up in the air, with VBS, moving, among other things, I haven’t been able to get a good long run in during any of the weekends. Last Saturday I was supposed to do 12, but only ended up doing 8 or 9.  Anyway, the significance of that is: I have never run more than 10 miles, EVER… so I had this looming fear that once I did, I would get injured, or just not be able to actually do it.  Upon looking at my training schedule earlier this week, I realized: I had to run 13 miles this Saturday.  And for those who don’t know, that’s a half-marathon!!

So, yes, if you’re wondering, I DID in fact survive.  I ran from Central Point to Jacksonville and back.. it was STUNNING this morning.  Running along the fields and watching the sun slowly come up.  It’s amazing out there when you aren’t driving and in a hurry… A few interesting happenings took place though, but I won’t share the details.  You probably don’t want to know.  If you do, ask me.

As I was running today, my thoughts drifted back to 8th grade (some of the “mental focus” just means finding things to think about that really don’t matter much at all..), when I first did any kind of running at all outside of PE class.  I joined Track my 8th grade year, and I still to this day have no idea why!

Anyway, when I joined, I knew I was going to have to find some event to do… tried all of them, couldn’t really do any of the sprints, did hurdles but during one of the races tripped and fell (short legs)… somehow, I ended up choosing to run the 400.

The 400 was one of the more difficult races, in between a sprint, and a longer run.  One time around the track.  A fourth of a mile.  As it so happened, for some reason in our league, there weren’t many girls that ran the 400.  In fact, at almost every meet, there were usually only 3 of us that ran.  And, as it would be, almost every time, I placed 2nd.  Granted, I KNEW I wasn’t very good, so don’t worry, it didn’t go to my head.

Somehow, I made it to the overall, league qualifying meet.  Wow, I still remember it as clear as day.  There were 8 of us that day, the most I’d ever raced against.  The stands were full.  I was so nervous.  I knew I was slow!!  Anyway, I started out probably in the middle of the pack, but then half way around the track, EVERYONE sprinted to the finish line, and I was left at the end of the pack… all alone.  I was the slowest, and last one!!!

What was even more embarrassing was when I finally drew closer to the finish line, all the parents and fans in the stands rose to their feet, clapping for me.. the last one to finish.  I was red I’m sure, but I also didn’t feel too well.. almost puked.

So back to now.  Today as  I was running I remembered that story because I know I’m not really a “good” runner, but part of pushing yourself is all mental, and really nothing physical.  Last week, I ran a 5K on the whim with my sister and Lindsey.  I’m not a 110 pound 6’3″ skinny 16 year old boy that can run a 5K in 10 minutes… slow and steady at times.  (However, I did win a ribbon for finishing 2nd in my age/gender category in the race!)

I was also today thinking about a 10K I ran while I was in Thailand.. the International River Kwai Run.  I didn’t train at all, and actually at that point, hadn’t even run much while in Thailand, so I wasn’t at all used to the humidity.  While plugging along and breathing loudly, I’ll never forget, the sweetest Thai man started running along side me and said “one step at a time”, while smiling from ear to ear.  That’s my modo for this… one step at a time.  I’m not unique person, anyone could throw on a pair of shoes and finish a marathon.  But for me, this is about overcoming what my mind and body have said for so long isn’t possible.  This is for me , to conquer my fears, and to do something I want to do before I die: train and finish a marathon.

Who knows, this could be the start of something new! 🙂

The Marathon Diaries, Week 4

Beginning of week 4: the Marathon Diaries.

Twenty-six point two miles never felt farther to me.  Currently in the training schedule, I don’t run close to that much in a WEEK.  Let alone one, single, run.  Holy cow, what am I doing?

Maybe that’s why I’ve put off registering…

No, I have a better reason why I’ve put off registering, I’m waiting to see how my knee/IT band does once I’m up a little more mileage, basically, this week, and next will tell.  If you see me passed out on the side of the road some morning, you’ll know that: 1) I probably won’t be running the PDX Marathon after all and 2) that I may be in need of your assistance.  Call 911 and come help me.  Hopefully I won’t already be dead.

You know, when I tell people that I’m training for a Marathon, everyone seems to get the same look of shock, amazement and terror in their eyes as they reply, “YOU ARE???”.  I laugh.  They stand there shocked a few moments more.  Then they say, “Wow, I could never do that, I’m not a runner, I hate running”. To that, I reply, “me too, I hate running, I was a cheerleader in High School and never ran more than a mile until I was probably… 20”.

Truth is, I’m not really a runner at heart, but there are a lot of things I’m learning to love about it.  Once you get over the “wall”… which usually takes a while… I don’t think I have in the past 3 weeks… Once the wall is broken, your legs become wings, and you could run forever.  Mentally you come to a place of triumph, and you soar down the road and leave clouds of dust behind you.  It’s an amazing feeling.  I can’t wait to get back to that.  Hopefully this week.

Anyway, I’ve been trying to get into a routine of getting up early and running.  Let’s just say I haven’t been successful.  This morning, as I lay lifeless in bed, with my nose still throbbing in pain from how many times I had blown it yesterday, I suddenly woke up, seeing the dim dawn light coming through my curtains. I rolled over to glance at my phone to see the time was: 5:54 a.m.  Of course my first thought was “wow, I should really get up and go running now”… but instead of listening to that still small voice, I tried to sleep a little longer. As the minutes slowly passed by, it was like my shoes were calling me.  They wanted to run.  6:02 a.m.,  I jump up, gaze out my window and stare at the allergy infested grassland around me, I thought once again about going back to bed, but somehow my arms reached for my running shoes instead.  This was a truly out of body experience.

So yeah, I ran early this morning.  Short run, just 3 miles.  (And yes, there was once a day when a “short run” was more like five steps, but these days, 3 and 4 milers are short.  Wow, I’m a runner.)

Well, if you care, you’ve finished this blog.  I’ll keep you all updated on how my body is surviving this venture.

10.10.10.  If I’m still alive and make it to race day.

apologies

Apologies dear readers for my silence as of late.  The weeks continue to slip by, I still can’t believe it’s AUGUST!  Not only that, but the 18th of August.  Time surely does fly by, that’s for sure.  Schools back in the states are starting up and summer back home is quickly fading.  It’s also weird to think that weather back home will turn to fall in about a months time, and here it may only cool down to the 80’s during November and December.

School, and everything related to school is as busy as ever.  My current project will be the first annual GES Talent Show!  This will be September 5th, and right now I’m in the process of auditioning groups, and working with students on putting some acts together.  I’m nervous about it… I’m just hoping everything will come together for the big day.  

I’m getting more involved with my church, CCC (http://www.cccthailand.org). I’m helping with the youth group, and have enjoyed getting the youth pastors, Paul and Joni.  Yesterday, we had our big youth kick of night, and I along with my friend Jonathan lead worship for the kids.  There were about 60 kids that showed up, and overall the night was a big success.  Most of the students are apart of the International school: ISB (International School of Bangkok) which is one of the top schools in all of Bangkok.  It just so happens to be located right in Nichada, the International community (the church is also located in Nichada).  So, it’s a very interesting mix of students that come to the youth events.  Some aren’t really even Christians, or interested in Christianity, they just like hanging out and having a good time. The families in this community are EXTREMELY wealthy and work for companies like Chevron, Nike, and some work at various Embassies here in Thailand.  And when they say “international” it really is international!  There are people from EVERYWHERE!  Anyway, I’ll be helping out with the Jr. High girls house group beginning next month, so that will be a great way to invest in some of their lives.  I will also be leading worship pretty often now for the main services at CCC.  I’m excited to get to do some teaching about what worship really is.. through action.  The church, as I have described, has an interesting mix of people, and every year there is a huge turn over rate with the dynamic of the church, so starting a fresh new year will be good.

Haaaa.  Another week ahead of us.  Like I said, time has been passing so quickly, and the weekends even quicker!  I’m enjoying my time here still, like I’ve said many of times, to many of you, I’m so blessed to be apart of what God is doing in Thailand now.  It’s a great place to live, seriously!  I’ve been a little homesick, but it’s quite funny to me, because I only get homesick during the weekends (usually) and it’s almost always when we are on our way out to Nichada for church.  I don’t know why… the place only reminds me of Southern California!  Maybe it’s just the west coast I miss, and not really anything in particular.. I don’t know!

Physically I’m doing great.  I’ve had few issues at all with my stomach, and I’m just feeling great!  I’ve been training to run a half-marathon, which I’m not sure I will actually be ready for, or able to run since it’s not here in Bangkok. Either way, I’ll be running a race at some point during my time in Thailand, I just don’t know when yet!  I joined a gym not too far from here in one of the bigger malls.  It’s nice to get away several evenings each week to work up a good sweat… My friend Heidi and I take a class called “Body Jam” and it’s the highlight of my week!  Learning dances.. and all they speak is Thai, so you kind of stand in the back and try to follow what they are doing.  It’s great.. good music, and the moves are so “sexeeey” -as they say!  (Everything that ends in an “i” or “y” is automatically pronounced “eeee”.. FYI).  

Spiritually, the LORD has been doing so much in my heart, it’s hard to even put it into words.  I know this experience will go with me whatever comes after my time here, and I feel so blessed to be experiencing everything I’ve been able to so far.  I’m still learning to trust him fully.  I’m still learning to follow in faith.

On a closing note, in about two months we have our long awaited “October Break” which marks the end of our first semester.  I’ve already purchased a plane ticket to Cambodia, and I will be traveling with several other teachers around Cambodia and Vietnam for about 8 days, then returning to Bangkok and heading down south (not too far) to a few beaches here in Thailand.  All of us are looking forward to the break.. even if it is two months away!  Should be exciting.. another group is headed to Nepal to hike some of the trails beneath Everest!  CRAZY!

Hope you all are doing well, please do email me when you get the chance!  I love hearing from you all.  And of course you can phone me anytime as well (local 541 number!).

Blessings and His Grace to you all,
Meridith Rae 

meridith.johnson@gmail.com
541.255.2159 

Here are a few pictures from our holiday last week (the Queen’s Birthday/Mother’s Day).  We went shopping downtown at MBK, then to a small, quaint French place for dinner; “Le Cafe Siam”.