Archive | March, 2016

Seasons

14 Mar

four-seasons

It will come as no surprise to anyone that life is full of seasons – not just in the world around us (is this summer ever going to end?), but also in our lives – whether it be emotionally, spiritually, mentally, or physically. Sunday we were prompted to think about the seasons of life and challenged to consider what season we were currently experiencing… and be real about it.

Life is full of seasons. There are seasons of abundance, need, stability, change, sadness, joy, health, sickness…and so many more. I don’t know what season you are in, and I don’t know if you know what season I am in. Because honestly, a lot of the time I would have worn a mask and I may not always be truthful with you.  Are you the same?  If someone asked me how I was, my answer would probably be “good” – but is that really the case? How honest are we with our friends?  Do we feel like we can be honest? Do we put up our hand for help when we need it, or do we attempt to solider on pretending life is wonderful when really the reality may be somewhat different?

When asked to honestly consider what season I am in my first reaction was sickness. You see this page isn’t big enough to list the sickness that I and my family have experienced in the last few years. I feel like my family is in the middle of a plague of sickness and just as one thing seems to improve someone else seems to be diagnosed with something else. I’ve lost friends and family that I love. I’ve known the grief associated with a terminal diagnosis for my brother, I’ve seen my other brother struggle for years with chronic pain and an unresolved medical condition. There has been many a time in the last few years that I have been reminded just how fragile life is. In the last three months I’ve had laparoscopic removal of endometriosis, an anterior bowel resection, partial tendon tear in my shoulder, and then a nasty cold virus.  If you ask me I have generally tried to downplay my run of illness. I’d tell you I’m doing okay. Because I compare my illness to my patients at work (ICU), those with terminal diagnoses and I also compare my illness to others in my family.  But if I’m honest with you, these illnesses have been my reality, they have impacted my work and my lifestyle, they have made me feel incredibly fatigued, and they have generally made me feel really quite horrible. That’s my honest answer. I have felt like crying more times than I can count recently. I feel like it has been one thing after another and honestly I’ve had enough.

The second season I would say would be that of drought.  The constant run of sickness has shaken my faith.  The change to shift work over the last two years hasn’t helped as I now work Sundays regularly and this impacts on my availability to attend church – to be surrounded by a support network and to be encouraged by likeminded people. I’ve felt increasingly more disconnected. I’ve even felt disconnected in my family who generally meet together once a week and encourage each other – the geographical distance means this is of course impossible (of course when I’m home it’s like I’ve never been away and I know they all love us just as we love them!).

Now this blog isn’t about having a pity-party – it’s honestly not. I just need to acknowledge that is the reality of how I have felt. Because it is also about acknowledging that if my problems are important to me then they also are important to God. As Billy said on Sunday – perhaps having big problems is also an opportunity to see God demonstrate that He is bigger. I think it is important to acknowledge that I don’t have life sorted. That I have plenty to learn. That I, just like anyone else, have good days and bad days, good years and bad years, joy and sorrow.

In this season right now, it is important to me that I acknowledge what I believe. Because, honestly, it is this that I cling to. This is the reason I put one foot in front of the other. This is the reason I believe that there will be better days ahead. That no matter what my future holds, my future is held in the hands of a loving God. That I will learn and grow from every season in life – the good and the bad.

I want to be honest with you when you ask. I want you to be honest with me when I ask. I want to be able to help support you through whatever challenge you face now, or share the joy of the good times you’re experiencing. I want to do life together – real life. Not the airbrushed pretend life is good kind of scenario, not where we all wear masks that hide pain, but real community – where we can support each other and grow together.

Just like the seasons come and go, as summer gives way to autumn and winter to spring, I know that life too has its seasons.  The drought and sickness of now will not always be my reality.  There is plenty to be learned in the tough seasons of life.  Like a tree in the desert, I want my roots to search out water by growing so deep that my tree will never be uprooted by the winds of the storms of life. I want Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (3:14-21) to remain true for my life – a few verses that continually seem to cross my path:

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Just as together we stood on Sunday – I again remind myself of exactly what I believe. While this earth and all that is in it is my reality for now, it is not my eternal destination.

 

This I Believe (The Creed) – Hillsong

Our Father everlasting
The all creating one
God Almighty
Through Your Holy Spirit
Conceiving Christ the Son
Jesus our Saviour

I believe in God our Father
I believe in Christ the Son
I believe in the Holy Spirit
Our God is three in one
I believe in the resurrection
That we will rise again
For I believe in the name of Jesus

Our Judge and our Defender
Suffered and crucified
Forgiveness is in You

Descended into darkness
You rose in glorious life
Forever seated high

I believe in life eternal
I believe in the virgin birth
I believe in the saint’s communion
And in Your holy Church
I believe in the resurrection
When Jesus comes again
For I believe, in the name of Jesus

 

 

 

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Tweed Enduro (90km bike leg)

6 Mar

It’s time for a race recap.  This is my way of debriefing, putting to bed any difficulties I had, and it gives me a way of reflecting on what I have learned in each event.

At the end of last year I contemplated doing my first half ironman distance event. A few friends had signed up to do the Tweed Enduro (1.9km swim, 90km cycle, 21.1km run) and I was considering adding my name to the start list. However, surgery in December removed the possibility. In early January I heard there was a team looking for a cyclist – while cycling isn’t my first leg of choice it gave me to opportunity to participate so I volunteered.

The fortnight before the race I was feeling a little weary, work had been busy and I was just plain tired so I stopped off to get a massage. My nice massage ended in a stretch that resulted in an incredible amount of shoulder pain which got increasingly worse. A trip to the Doctor and scans showed a partial tendon tear, and requirement for aspiration of new calcification and a steroid injection into the bursa of my right shoulder. Thankfully this treatment made an incredible difference and within a couple of day’s movement had been restored and pain had all but disappeared. I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I realised my Enduro goal was not lost.

The week of the event dawned and I excitedly finalised plans to travel to Northern NSW to participate.  On Monday those plans stumbled as I began coughing… I very quickly found myself in the middle of a virus – the annoying common cold could not have struck at a worse time.  I began looking up the race conditions for transfer of my entry to another – with terms and conditions stating it is not allowed.  I asked our swimmer if she was interested in doing both the swim and the ride… to no avail.  I realised that should I not be able to complete the ride, our team would have to forfeit our entry (including the significant entry fee). It is one thing to pull out of an event when it only affects you, it is quite another thing to pull out knowing that it means two other people will no longer be able to participate.  I felt terrible.

A once over from my Doctor indicated that while I felt horrible, it was nothing more sinister than a virus (no temperature and a clear chest). She prescribed rest, rest and more rest and I willingly obliged as I felt quite lousy.  As I was preparing to leave the surgery I casually mentioned that I wanted to do a ride on the weekend… she said I might be able to do it – IF I was feeling better. I sent out requests to my friends to pray for a quick recovery. My throat felt red raw and my voice was hoarse but day by day I felt slightly better. Each day I calculated how many hours I had to get better, I didn’t want to let my team down and I really wanted to ride. I googled when it is appropriate to ride when sick, and when you should rest, of course only paying attention to those pages that supported my desire to ride…

It takes quite a bit for me to pull out/quit on something generally, and I was really struggling with what to do. I wanted to be sensible, but I was wondering if my desire to ride was clouding my judgement. On Friday my head felt clear, and I had finally stopped taking anaesthetic lozenges like they were lollies. I still had the occasional cough and my voice still rivalled Morgan Freeman or James Earl Jones (and that was after not talking for two days!). I jumped in the car with some friends for our road trip south preparing for a final day of rest. Friday afternoon I was able to register and rack my bike. Upon meeting our team I found out that Jacob (our runner) had recently had a chest infection and his race preparation hadn’t been great. We wondered how well our team might do…

Race day… nothing like a 0430hr alarm clock (0330hrs Brisbane time) to get you raring to fight… We were almost ready to walk out the door when the car keys were found to be missing. After an extensive search they were discovered – in the ignition of the car… where they had been all night and the battery was subsequently completely flat… Thankfully there was a group of 5 of us staying in the same unit, and two of the other girls had a car that started (as most do…) and after some last minute reshuffling, we were able to all jump in to go to the next town for the race. A quick trip into transition to re-pump the tires and a walk to the start of the swim start to see all the girls off.

Lisa did a great swim for us (1.9km in 41 minutes) and it was over to me to ride. It was the first time I had been on my bike in a week, and it was the first time I had done anything physical all week – I’d simply been too tired. The ride was 4, 22.5km laps.  As I set out down the road I remember thinking, gosh this is hard work – I must be sicker than I thought. At that point I very much doubted the wisdom of riding. As I made a right turn at about the 7km mark I realised that I had been pushing into a headwind! I enjoyed the break as the route added a couple of small rises (and appreciated the subsequent slight downhills).  I found the trip back to the start of the circuit to pass fairly quickly. I didn’t feel like the subsequent tailwind gave as much advantage as the headwind did disadvantage, but I tried to just keep pedalling.

Lap 2 passed in very much the same fashion, the right turn seemed oh so far away. I was being passed continually and was amazed at the speed some of those cyclists could push out.  Throughout the morning I was able to say g’day to friends out on the course, and it always gave me something to look out for to break up the ride.  I thought Lap 3 was going to be the hardest – it was over half way but still not close to finishing. I’d noticed my speed had really dropped away but try as I might I couldn’t resurrect it.  I just decided I’d have to keep pedalling and hope for the best.  However, Lap 4 turned out to be really tough.

By Lap 4 I realised that there really weren’t too many others out on course.  As I set out on my final lap everyone I knew was just coming in to finish the ride (or had already finished).  I could then see no-one ahead of me, and sadly could also see no-one behind.  It was then that I believed I was the last cyclist out there. Now, I know I’m not going to be anywhere near a podium any time soon, but I’m still quite competitive by nature. To believe I was coming dead last almost defeated me. I started to wonder why I even bother. I was thinking “well Jen, if it was easy everyone would be doing it” but that made it feel even harder. I got in a really bad headspace where I started to doubt why I should bother exercising and entering these events at all.  I also knew however that there was a poor lonely runner waiting in transition for me to get back so he could start his half marathon. I kept trying to get myself to push harder, if I just work hard now it will all be over, but I was exhausted. I did find as I turned to do the final stretch home that there was one other cyclist out on the route still.  I had taken my glasses off mid race (as we had a bit of rain on course and it’s difficult to see when there are spots in your eyes), but I put them back on as I came into transition – I didn’t want to look anyone in the eye for fear I’d burst into tears.  There were no spectators left on the bike leg, and the officials guided me in from my ride.  Apparently I missed the cycle cut off (must have been by only a minute or two) – but thankfully our times are all still recorded.  Jacob ran to me, collected the timing chip and I was able to re-rack my bike and finish my race. Jacob was then able to run and finish for our team.

From here I was able to support all the friends who had already done a swim (1.9km), ride (90km) and were embarking on a half marathon.  I couldn’t really cheer people on (as I still really didn’t have a voice) but I hung around the run route anyway.  I then moved to the finish line. It was here I was able to watch some of the girls and guys I knew finish – they are strong, incredible people. I admit to a couple of sneaky tears as I watched some of them cross the line (some had far from perfect days out there and others looked strong from start to finish) – Kim, Kiara, Jane, Leah, Benita, Sharky – you guys (and the few hundred others who finished) are absolutely awesome.

So for me, it was a tough ride. My preparation was a little suboptimal (let’s face it, there probably weren’t too many out there yesterday who had a bowel resection 12 weeks ago necessitating 6 weeks of complete rest, as well as the shoulder and viral issues I had in the last fortnight) – but that just feels like I’m making excuses for a poor finish.  I think I need a few more days before I can reassess properly whether I believe in myself enough to do a half ironman – maybe when the pain of the cycle leg is forgotten…

For those interested in the stats, my Garmin tells me it was an 89km ride (meant to be 90), my average speed was 23.3km/hr and it therefore took me 3hrs 49 mins. My brother encouraged me with a message that said “Finished last is better than did not finish is better than did not start”. I got out there, I rode 89km without a break, I started and I finished. For that reason alone, it was a good day out, no matter what the final details were.

potty