Ready to Run

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Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know. – Pema Chodron

I’m a runner. I run for enjoyment, to improve my health, but I also run when problems are too great for me to bear. It’s easier to escape and avoid than to have to face and deal with the problems. For the past five months, life has been challenging and difficult. Work is tough, my personal life is tough, and now my health has started taking a hit from all the pressure.

Every day when I step in the door of my office, it feels like I’ve entered a war zone. I’m on pins and needles, fueled by anxiety.What is going to happen today? Who is going to confront me? Who needs confronting? What kind of fire do I have to put out? There is constant conflict, confrontation, questions, accusations, and demands and they weigh heavily on me.

Nichole, can you help me with this. Nichole, can you help me with that? Nichole, why did you do it this way? Nichole, why did you do it that way? Nichole, when are you going to do this? When, when when…why, why, why?

I am drained both mentally and physically. Work bleeds into my personal life and my personal life bleeds into my work life. It compounds and compounds and all I want to do at this very moment is to yell at the world, Leave me alone! Sorry to be so harsh 😦

I cry out to God. God this is too much! I’m exhausted. Can’t you give a break, just one break? At times, He doesn’t answer. Can’t you at least tell me no instead of leaving me hanging? Why am I being put through so much all at one time?

Since Calgon wouldn’t take me away, I plotted a little escape, true to form. I packed my weekender bag and hightailed it to Memphis to stay with a close friend. I took a much-needed break from the world. I didn’t have to think for anyone, answer to anyone, or help anyone. I just got to sit and relax and do whatever I wanted to do. It was very refreshing. It was everything I wanted and more.

As Sunday afternoon rolled around, I knew it was time to face reality and head back home, only, I wasn’t so eager to do so. I cried actually. I did everything to buy more time. I persuaded my friend (which wasn’t really that hard) that we needed to have dinner before I left. I wanted desperately to escape the obvious – my chaotic life.

I believe that is how Jonah in the Bible must have felt when God was pressuring him to do something he did not want to do. It’s not fair, he cried to God. I don’t want to. Just like me, Jonah took off on foot and ran to the furthest place he could run to.

The story of Jonah and the Whale opens with God speaking to Jonah, son of Amittai, commanding him to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh. Jonah found this order unbearable. Not only was Nineveh known for its wickedness, but it was also the capital of the Assyrian empire, one of Israel’s fiercest enemies. Jonah, a stubborn fellow, did just the opposite of what he was told. He went down to the seaport of Joppa and booked passage on a ship to Tarshish, heading directly away from Nineveh. The Bible tells us Jonah ‘ran away from the Lord.’ 

Jonah didn’t get very far and the Lord stopped his escape dead in his tracks.

In response, God sent a violent storm, which threatened to break the ship to pieces. The terrified crew cast lots, determining that Jonah was responsible for the storm. Jonah told them to throw him overboard. First they tried rowing to shore, but the waves got even higher. Afraid of God, the sailors finally tossed Jonah into the sea, and the water immediately grew calm. The crew made a sacrifice to God, swearing vows to him. Instead of drowning, Jonah was swallowed by a great fish, which God provided.

Sitting at the dinner table with my friend, I felt God say, Go home Nichole. Get in the car and drive back home. I had to go back home just like Jonah did.

Jonah was in the giant fish three days. God commanded the whale, and it vomited the reluctant prophet onto dry land. This time Jonah obeyed God. He walked through Nineveh proclaiming that in forty days the city would be destroyed. Surprisingly, the Ninevites believed Jonah’s message and repented, wearing sackcloth and covering themselves in ashes. God had compassion on them and did not destroy them.- Jonah and the Whale – Story Summary by Jack Zavada

After dinner, I went back to my friend’s house, loaded up my car, and drove home. I could not avoid it any longer. The next day I got ready for work, prayed up the day, went to work just like I was supposed to. Nothing out the normal happened that day. It was business as usual. I guess all that really mattered is that I showed up.

Sometimes running away is not always the best answer. Sure it provides a relief, but that relief is often temporary. Running doesn’t provide the solution, it just prolongs you from reaching the solution. We have to keep facing our issues and the demands until the purpose for them are revealed. You never know, by facing the issues, maybe you are saving a life or saving your own for that matter.

I am not sure what you are facing today, maybe you are contemplating running, or you have already fled. Maybe you are hiding out somewhere trying to avoid it all. Take it from me, the problem is never going away until you see it all the way through to the end. As hard as it may be, it’s time to turn around and go back home. “Somebody” might be depending on it.

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Soul Mates

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Our soul mate is the one who makes life come to life. – Richard Bach quotes

I’ve been on a quest for love my whole life. I wanted to give love and I wanted to receive love. In the beginning of 2013, I decided to make it my mission to be “in love”. I settled on the word “love” for my One Word Resolution to help expedite this process along.

This journey towards love has not been easy. I was duped by fairy tales thinking love ends in “happily every after”. Does anyone really know what happens after “happily ever after” anyways? I’ve never seen the script for the day after the magical kiss at sunset. I do, however, have an idea of what it is supposed to be. Me and I may soul mate would live in perfect bliss all the days of our lives. Love would be smooth sailing.

I couldn’t be more wrong. Love has shown me that it takes a lot of work. There are many challenges and obstacles to overcome.  There are hard truths you must swallow. There are walls to be torn down. Your heart is going to break from time to time. You are going to hurt that person and they are going to hurt you. You are going to battle trust issues. At times, you are going to want to abandon the relationship completely.

As love continues to distort my way of thinking, I realize that love’s way is better. The pain, the heartache, and the obstacles are all needed to achieve love – the affection, the assurance, and the devotion from another person.

In your own quest for love, if you are ever so lucky to meet your soul mate, I hope you don’t run away. I hope you invite them in and allow them to challenge you and break your heart open so you can uncover the person you were always supposed to be. Only then, can you love completely unabandoned, reckless, and free 🙂

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Trusting Love

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Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it. – Kahlil Gibran

We make investments every day. We invest our time and emotions in relationships, we invest our commitments, our dedication to our jobs, and we invest money into our 401K plans.  Whether it is love or respect, advancements or pay raises in our careers, and large retirement funds, we invest because we expect a return.

A recent turn of events led me to check my portfolio in a relationship that is fairly new. I felt as if I was investing more than what would be returned to me so I checked to see what kind of return was in store. This all stems from fear and the need for control. Every fiber in my being wants to control this relationship. I need to define it. I need to label it. I have to or it will end.

In my quest to define this relationship and protect my investments, I decided to set some boundaries. My cousin, Shelly, told me to read the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. This book teaches you how to say no, when to say yes, and how to take control of your life.

The passage in the section of “Friendship Boundaries”, changed my life. The authors describe boundaries as this,

Boundary conflicts in friendships are difficult to deal with because the only cord tying the relationship together is the attachment itself. There’s no wedding ring. There’s no job connection. There’s just the friendship – and it often seems all too fragile and in danger of being severed.

So, aren’t friendships at greater risk of breaking up when boundary conflicts arise? This type of thinking has two problems.

  • First, it assumes that external institutions such as marriage, work, and church are the glue that holds relationships together. It assumes that our commitments are what hold us together, not our attachments. Biblically and practically, nothing could be further from the truth. 

Choice and commitment are elements of a good friendship. However, we can’t depend on commitment or sheer willpower, for they will always let us down.

  • The second problem with thinking that friendships are weaker than institutionalized relationships such as marriage, church, and work is assuming that those there aren’t attachment based. If it were true, wedding vows would ensure a zero percent divorced rate.

It’s scary to realize that the only thing holding our friends to us isn’t our performance, or our lovability, or their guilt, or their obligation. The only thing that will keep them calling, spending time with us, and putting up with is love. And that’s the one thing we can’t control.

At any moment, any person can walk away from a friendship. However, as we enter more and more into an attachment-based life, we learn to trust love. We learn that the bonds of a true friendship are not easily broken.

There it was. The truth in black and white text glaring at me. I was so concerned with the external attachment – commitment – than the actual attachment itself – love.  I kept thinking, if I could just grab a hold of the external attachment, then I could let go – give myself fully to the relationship. That verbal commitment would be the glue that would keep us together forever.

As I threw myself into this book, I realized that I was creating boundaries that closed me off and protected me in an unhealthy way. I created boundaries around my words. If I say this, or say that, he will leave. I created boundaries around my heart. If I love like this, or love like that, it will scare him and he will leave. It’s not that I don’t trust my friend. It’s that I don’t trust love. Love has failed me over and over again. Love has let me down. Love has crushed me. When it was supposed to protect me, it ended up hurting me.

As it turns out, I didn’t receive the commitment I was looking for from him, but I decided to move forward in the relationship anyway. He is my best friend and I cannot see life without him. Besides, what do I have to lose? Love is the return. Love is costly, love is risky, but it is truly the best return you can ever receive.

Love is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. – C.S. Lewis

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