Monday, September 11, 2017

The Musings of a 34 Year Old

My 34th birthday weekend was full of unexpected surprises that left me feeling so much gratitude for my life and the people in it.  

Around the beginning of the summer, I decided to start training for a half marathon in Hawaii. Recently, however, I fell off my training program.  I was attempting to get back to running, unsure of whether or not I would actually run the race in October. Lisa and I went for a run on the Monday before my birthday.  She mentioned she was running the Big Cottonwood Canyon Revel half marathon on Saturday, the day before my birthday, and asked if I wanted to join her. If we signed up together, we would get a discount.  In a moment of impulsivity, I agreed, knowing that a) the race was 9 miles downhill and b) I was turning 34 the day after the race.  

We got gloves and emergency blankets to keep us warm in the canyon during the 1 hour wait before the race started.

My time was very slow (about 2 hours and 45 minutes), but I managed to run for the first 10 miles straight and walk/ran only during the last 3.1 miles. My goal was under 3 hours, so I was satisfied. I read something online the morning of the race (when I realized I had no idea what the heck I was doing and started googling "what to know about running a half marathon" at 4:00 a.m.) that said, "It's better to pass people at the end than at the beginning."  Because of that advice, I kept up a consistent, (very) slow pace the entire race, starting from the very first mile.  My students made fun of me when I told them it was mostly all downhill ("I could have rolled down, Ms. Houston!"), but it was still an amazing experience for me. It wasn't easy, and it required me to set goals and push myself. I listened to entire track of Hamilton for the first 9-10 miles and then switched to another playlist of upbeat music. Around mile 11, when the ground become level and things were getting increasingly tough, a song came on by Colbie Caillat that we used on the documentary we made of Anna's GBS.  When the song came on, tears sprang to my eyes as I thought to myself, "If Anna could learn to walk again, I can make it through these last 3 miles!"  And that helped me push forward.  A little later, when I had to stop and walk again, someone was holding a sign that said, "Touch here if you need power." It had a little star for runners to slap as they passed by. I thought those signs were dumb until I found myself in a situation where it was EXACTLY what I needed to give me the courage to keep trying.  

I was 20 minutes behind Lisa, but her sister Maddie was also running the race. She got ill at about mile 10 and had to walk most of the rest of the way.  Somehow, we found ourselves less than a quarter of a mile from the finish line side by side and we crossed together.  It was so cool!

Just prior to crossing the finish line, I saw one of my students there cheering for her older siblings!  This picture was seconds after I finished.
Maddie's second half and the first half for Lisa and me!

We did it for the swag!
    The next day was my birthday. I couldn't walk normally and I was losing my big toenail, but it was totally worth it.  

When I came downstairs in the morning on my way to leave for the tabernacle, flowers, a card, and a Harry Potter drink were sitting on the counter. My roommate has only lived in my home for 1 week and she has already blessed my life greatly!

For the choir broadcast, we sang one of my favorite pieces, "It is Well With My Soul," arranged by our director on the morning broadcast, I reflected how much the Lord has blessed me. I felt particularly emotional as I realized how happy my life has been, despite all the hardships, because of the love and support of my family, friends, and my Father in Heaven.

I decided to keep my birthday low key this year. Last year I did a big party and I decided I didn't want to plan anything this year, even though I've always loved getting people together on my birthday.  Quite honestly, 33 was a rough year for me.  It was also a year of immense personal growth, but it came at a cost, and I didn't feel up to planning anything.  I invited my sisters to come have dinner with me after church and Melissa Thorne invited me to her house afterwards for cookies and ice-cream with a couple of our choir teacher friends.

It was so touching to me to see my little sister Christina bring and prepare an entire meal and a cake while simultaneously taking care of her 9 month old (who is getting tubes in his ears Tuesday because of a continuous stream of ear infections) and her 3 year old (who is in the threenager stage of his sweet little life) while her husband is in China.  They came with me to church and one of my favorite parts of the day was getting to talk to Scotty during the Sacrament about Jesus while his mom was feeding Calvin. His parents have done an incredible job teaching him about our Savior- he knows so much!

My baby sister, Anna, was just called to be the relief society president in her ward. She is also dancing on the showcase BYU ballroom team and finishing up a busy final year of college while applying for grad school.  She drove up from BYU with her roommate to be there with me on my birthday.  Having my sisters there in the middle of their incredibly busy lives meant everything to me.

And little did I know, Anna was spearheading a surprise party with my beloved friends over the past couple weeks.  After we ate dinner, opened presents (I am now the proud owner of a power drill and lots of lovely jewelery- love the miracle of technology that allowed my mom to participate via facetime), and had (gluten free!) cake, Christina was determined to take Cal for a walk after dinner so Scotty could go play on the playground.  Anna was extra excited to help me pick out what I was going to wear to Melissa's house before we left.  I have to give it to my sisters for their incredible acting- I seriously had NO idea they had been planning anything right up until the very day of my birthday.  I even bought the whole "let's go on a walk thing" because Scotty really was bouncing off the walls and needed a place to release all his cute energy.  I cannot believe they (and my friends) kept it a secret for so long! 

When we came back from our brief walk, the house was decorated and there were treats on the table.  Melissa and Anna told everyone to bring their favorite GF treats, which was so characteristically thoughtful.  A group of people who I love so dearly were waiting in the kitchen and yelled, "Surprise!" as I walked in.  My friends introduced themselves to one another and shared some funny memories from our friendship and it was almost an out of body experience to listen and be a part of it. 

As I sit here and write this, it is beyond my comprehension.  I can't believe the sacrifices of my friends and family last night to show one person that she matters. Feeling like I matter has been a struggle for me my whole life; yet, there was no denying that each person gathered in my home last night loved and supported me. I couldn't have received a more precious gift.

I told my family I wanted accessories for my birthday, so I put on every single one that I got,  of course!
Let's talk real talk for a minute.  I mentioned this year has been hard. And it has. My faith has been put to the test.  Sometimes it felt like 2 steps forward and 1 step back as I tried to find my footing spiritually and emotionally.  It still feels that way sometimes.  But God has never left my side.  He has granted me peace beyond what I thought possible.  I am a changed person, this year in particular, because of Him.  He helped me shift my focus, something I never thought I could successfully do, and accept my life for everything that it is, not what it isn't.  And to accept me for what I am, and not what I am not.  I'm obviously not perfect at any of this, but I am so much happier even with the little progress I've made.  The gaping holes I saw where life didn't give me what I wanted are becoming completely obscured by the rich blessings I receive on a daily basis.  And the greatest of those blessings are the atonement of Jesus Christ and my family, followed closely by my friends.

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul