Out of the Dust

Change has always been difficult for me. My personality tends to lean towards the familiar and I find comfort in things I can predict, understand, and grapple with. Yet there is an amazing, hard-won beauty that comes from growth, which can only be achieved through change. I think we all know that you don’t progress by staying the same or remaining where you are, yet it is so easy to resist change because change forces us to be uncomfortable. It forces us into the unknown.

Last year I set out to get healthier and ended up losing 40 lbs in roughly 3 months in addition to participating in three different 5k races – the first of which was the immensely challenging, KC favorite: Hospital Hill. It was incredibly difficult, but I had just lost 40 lbs and I needed to do something with all my newfound energy!

This was me after the race last year:

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I felt so accomplished and invincible after that race! I am sad to say that since then I have gained all of that weight back and then some. This was honestly due to the stress of my schedule combined with choices I made to focus my energy and attention primarily on graduate school, work, and my family. Even though deep down I know I had plenty on my plate to deal with, I’ve felt like a failure the past several months to have made such amazing progress forward only to take 2 steps backwards. After I ran Hospital Hill last year, I had immediately signed up to run it in 2017. Little did I know how out of shape I would be leading up to this race.

It was the last thing I wanted to do.

Truly.

But I knew that if I chose to not run this race in my current state, that it would be the first of many choices to remain unhealthy. By running it (knowing it would be difficult and painful) I knew it would be the wake up call I needed to initiate some much needed change in my life.

So I did.

I got dressed after work. I put my headphones in my ears with my music set to shuffle randomly through all the songs in my library. I navigated to the back of the crowd behind the starting line knowing I would be among the slower participants in the crowd. Hospital Hill is nearly an all-uphill run; if it’s not truly ALL uphill, it certainly feels that way.

As I made my way up the first mile’s worth of hill, I felt my legs begin to burn pretty intensely. My lungs were already struggling to provide the oxygen I needed and it was only the first mile! I would push through as many steps as I could until I was forced to catch my breath, then I would resume running once I felt I could breathe again.

I began to feel discouraged, but then my playlist began a new song and I heard these words:

“All this pain. I wonder if I’ll ever find my way. I wonder if my life could really change, at all… “

One foot in front of the other…  I felt overwhelmed. What was I doing out here? God, this is hard!

“All this earth. Could all that is lost ever be found? Could a garden come up from this ground, at all…?” 

I don’t know if I can do this! I don’t know if I can finish this race! It’s only Mile 1!

Then….

“You make beautiful things. You make beautiful things out of the dust. You make beautiful things. You make beautiful things out of us.”

In an instant I was a girl, running slowly with my eyes closed and literal tears on my cheeks. Overcome. In that moment, I realized something I once knew, but I’d forgotten:

I was beautiful in that moment of pain. I was beautiful because I was strong. Not strong physically (yet!), but a strength welling inside me that resolved to knowingly tackle something difficult and painful with a hope of things to come. A fierce determination in my core that refused to allow a lesser version of myself to exist when I knew who I was and what I am capable of. A strength that could see and acknowledge my own weaknesses and lay them before God’s throne in surrender, asking Him to help me.

So I pushed on.

Up and up and up past Mile 1, Mile 2, and Mile 3. Somewhere before Mile 3, I actually began hyperventilating because the hill I was climbing was so steep that even the seasoned runners were walking up this hill at best. I panicked because I was so miserable and so exhausted, but still only 2/3 of the way through this race. I also had the insanely embarrassing and socially awkward encounter of a fellow racer stopping to help me slow my breathing. That was very nice of her, I just hate feeling like I am burdening someone else for my sake – ugh!

Once I regained my composure and was breathing steadily again, I lunged forward. That last mile was honestly a blur as I just focused on putting one dead weight of a foot in front of the other. At this point I am sure those of you who run regularly are wondering how exaggerated and dramatic I am being, but I assure you this took all my energy, all my will, and all my focus. It really, REALLY sucked. When you haven’t been training for a run of any length and you have been eating unhealthy and weigh as much as I did on that day, each step forward in an uphill race feels like it just may be your last step on planet Earth altogether. With some unrelenting tenacity, I finished the race only 8 minutes behind my time the previous year. I thought it would be so much more!

This was me after the race this year (literally laying in the grass):

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I am sharing this embarrassing, 5k-from-Hell story to simply say that change (although difficult and sometimes painful) is uncompromisingly intertwined with growth. They’re a double-edged sword and you cannot have growth without change. In that crowd around me were numerous running T-shirts shouting things like “No Pain, No Gain,” “Sweat is fat crying!,” and my least favorite, “If you can read this, I am not last!”

But they reminded me of things I had learned a long time ago in my early 20’s…

“PAIN IS TEMPORARY, GROWTH IS PERMANENT.”

And this gem:

“But I beat my body and make it my slave, so that after proclaiming to others, I myself should not be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:27

It will be worth it and I am not alone.

So I am giving in.

To change.
To the pursuit of discipline.
To a journey full of ups and downs with my eyes set ahead towards progress and growth. To becoming stronger.
To living the life I want to live, not passively letting it slip away from me.
To focus, to work hard, to push harder, and to keep going forward.
To giving this challenge to Him day after day after day until He makes me new….

He makes beautiful things out of the dust…. out of us….

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