Saturday, April 30, 2011

Will run for food (and friends)

This picture pretty much sums me up:

This morning I ran a 5K race (3.1 miles) through Sequoyah Hills, a storied Knoxville neighborhood with beautiful homes and majestic trees.
The fun part was I got to do it with five other co-workers, Don, John, Eric, Hayes and Phil. There's something to be said for the camaraderie of friends. Somehow, I seemed to run faster and better than I did during my training.

We all finished at different times but it was cool to have a post mortem of the race: the beautiful spring day, the hills on the course, and the dude you saw sprinting past the 3-mile marker on the loop before you completed mile 1. (He ain't normal!)

During a short pause in the conversation I interjected, "where's the food?"
We headed for the snack tent. I downed a chocolate-covered granola bar, a banana, Chex mix and a bottle of water within a few minutes.
Since I've been home, I've had chocolate milk to help with recovery. I now have visions of eggs and some serious carbs.

I started running in fall 2007, thanks to the encouragement of my friend and former colleague, Ansley. She challenged me to try something new and promised to run with me. I remember training with her during the frigid winter months. Meeting at 6:30 a.m. in 20-degree weather didn't seem so bad because a buddy was waiting for me.
I also saw the City of Knoxville with new eyes because I covered a lot of it on foot.
Many mornings I wanted to stay in bed but I couldn't bear the shame of standing Ansley up. So I went ... grudgingly.
Our time together was precious because it grew our friendship in addition to increasing my physical endurance.

Since then, I've run three half marathons (13.1 miles), several 10Ks (6.2 miles) and tons of 5Ks.
(One of my favorite things about races is the yummy stuff you get to eat at the end.)

Running is one addiction I don't mind having.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I think God cried, too.

It's been storming and raining in Knoxville for the last several days.
It's exactly how I've been feeling on the inside.
As I drove through the downpour Wednesday, I said out loud: "God, these are like your tears. Thanks for commiserating with me."

My uncle, my dad's younger brother, died in Nigeria on Tuesday. My heart especially hurts for my 88-year-old grandma. It seems so wrong when parents have to bury their children.
Then on Wednesday, my old New York City pastor David Wilkerson died in a car crash. Interestingly enough, he wrote one final blog post Wednesday.

I love that the Bible reminds us that God is very near and present in the midst of our experiences and mess.
I love that He's not caught off guard as we are.
And I love Psalm 56:8, which reminds me that God sees. "You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?"

This week has been such a sobering reminder about the brevity of life and the importance of living purposefully.

By the way, to add what seems like insult to injury, I finally checked out my car this morning and saw that last night's hail had left me little dent surprises.

*Shoulder shrug.*

God is STILL good.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hi, I'm Lola. I'm a book nerd.

I told my friend Mark recently that reading is like watching TV except the scenes are in your head.
I don't think he bought it.
This weekend I saw the most recent movie adaptation of Jane Eyre at the Regal Cinemas Downtown West theater.
(Here's a great synopsis of the book and a review of the recent movie.)

To understand how truly enjoyable this was for me, you have to know that Jane Eyre is my favorite piece of English literature. I've read it half a dozen times.
After watching the movie, I pulled the book off my shelf. It's up next after I'm done with Voyage of the Dawn Treader. (I might sneak in The Silver Chair before it, though.)

Jane Eyre, written in 1847 by Charlotte Bronte, has suspense, cruelty, agony, a mysterious love interest, a (literally) crazy lady who likes to set things on fire, and blood. (dun, dun, duuuuun!)

It's the story of an orphan girl who, despite the hand dealt her, triumphs over hardship after hardship. She has a quick and sharp wit, which is especially delightful to see (and read) when she puts Mr. Rochester in his place.

I fell in love with the book in 10th grade in Mr. Milkman's English class.
I liked it because even though constant disappointments come Jane's way (and there seems to be waaaaay too many for a petite girl), she struggles to find joy in the midst of it.
I also connected with its theme of forgiveness particularly when the person who wronged you has not sought it -- a huge lesson I was learning at the time.
(By the way, forgiveness doesn't necessarily mean you forget the wrong done to you. But it does take away some, if not all, the sting.)

A quick Internet search shows there are at least 20 film and television adaptations of Jane Eyre.
Thank goodness for Netflix.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Living my own story

"The Biblical view of things is resurrection: not a future that is just a consolation for the life you never had, but a restoration of the life you always wanted." -- Tim Keller, The Reason for God

I paid a quick visit to my 94-year-old friend Josephine today.
During the course of our conversation, she noted that she married at 20 and if she hadn't birthed four children in five years, she would have liked to become a journalist.
My response was something like this: "But being a journalist is not the story God gave you."
Her life took a different turn that included being the mother of six, a short story writer (some pieces which were bought by BBC radio) and a world traveler.
I said what I said, not because I was trying to be flippant, but because I find that I often compare my life to others' and wish for things they have in theirs. That's when discontent creeps in.

Josephine, after my response, paused for a few seconds and then kissed my cheek.
"Good point," she said.

The challenge to embrace my own story and the life God has given me was brought home again today, Easter, the celebration of Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead.
"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full," Jesus said. (John 10:10)
I pray for courage to live my story with its twists and turns, heartaches and joys. I desire that the way I do life would encourage others to embrace theirs and live it well.

Bonus: After the sunrise service at church this morning, I walked out to the parking lot and saw the sun rise :)

Here's one of the songs I heard today that's still running around in my head. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Around the world in 90 minutes

I love traveling the globe and connecting with dear friends and family. It's especially thrilling when I can do it right from my little house in North Knoxville.
Today, I Skyped with my best friend Joanna in Poland. I continue to be amazed at the clarity of such technology. We're half a world apart and yet sitting across from one another.
(And it was free. I can afford free!)
We talk every few weeks. Yet, we picked up the mundane, funny and deep things right where we left off. No back story needed.
Do you have friends like that? I hope you do because they add such depth to your life.

I left Europe and jumped over to the African continent by calling my 88-year-old grandmother in Nigeria. It made me smile that she'd upgraded her ring tone from your basic "ring, ring" to a song from a Yoruba music group since the last time we spoke.
As always, she chided me for taking so long to call her. She spoke blessings over me.
I told her about the goings on in my family including my older sister's recent birthday. When she asked me how old she was, I couldn't remember how to say the number in Yoruba. She laughed. (She doesn't speak English).

I came back to America and stopped by Washington DC to holler at my friend Ansley and then in Alabama to chat with my beautiful, red-headed little sister Kristen. Neither of them were home.

I brought it home to Knoxville where I ended my phone time with my 94-year-old friend Josephine. The best part of this conversation is that it'll result in face time with her tomorrow.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Are you bitter or better?

Happy Friday, y'all!
My friend Sarah and I decided to celebrate by taking in a movie and dinner.
She suggested Soul Surfer, which is based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton, the Hawaiian-born surfer who loses her left arm as a result of a shark attack on Halloween Day 2003. She was 13.

**Minor movie spoiler alert here**
After the incident, Bethany struggles to make sense of why such a terrible thing would happen and what it means for her dream of becoming a pro surfer.
One of the best scenes is when she takes a trip to Thailand following the tsunami of 2004. There, she meets a woman who lost her family, her home, her livelihood, her everything, when the waters swept into her hometown.
Bethany, overcome, bursts into tears.
"Don't be sorry for compassion, Bethany," her trip leader tells her. "It can move us to do amazing things and it can help us gain new perspective."
Shortly after, she sees a little girl who's afraid of the ocean because it's destroyed so much in her life, too.
Bethany, who had pretty much given up on her dream, gets into the water and helps the little girl overcome her fear.

It was such a beautiful picture of using one's loss and pain to help others through theirs.

That scene reminded me of what a mentor told me in high school: I could let the hard things that come into my life make me bitter or better.
I've desired since then to see the closed doors and broken dreams in my life through that lens.
Tons of good life lessons in the movie as well as breathtaking scenery (and some eye candy, too).

By the way, I'm always on the lookout for random things I can file under the "you can't make this stuff up" category. After the movie, I made a pit stop in the ladies room and this caught my eye.

Perhaps the most fun part of the theater experience was the guy who took our tickets. His name was ... Jedi.

Recently finished: Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
Currently reading: Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

Saturday, April 16, 2011

An uncomfortable poem. eek.

I've heard tell that bad reporters plagiarize and good reporters steal.
I stole this poem from Jana Spicka's blog.

It's so uncomfortable in many ways and somewhat dangerous. But I want it to get deep down inside of me.

Disturb Us, Lord
Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.
-- Sir Francis Drake, 1577

Friday, April 15, 2011

An unexpected lovey

You know how some days you just need a little something to make it through? Today was one of those for me.
I went back to work Thursday after a wonderful vacation in Denver and Chattanooga. I even made it a two-day work week to soften the blow.
Yet, by mid afternoon today, I was losing steam.
Around 2 p.m., a co-worker named Chuck came by my desk and gave me this from his garden.

Totally unexpected. So totally needed. The peony did something to my heart and my outlook. Suddenly, the story I was working on seemed to write itself. The clock raced a little faster and soon enough, it was 5:45 p.m. and time to start the weekend.

I thought over my week and realized many loveys had come my way. I just didn't recognize them:
The Dove dark chocolates my Chattanooga friend Angela left for me in her guest room on Tuesday.
The herd of Great Danes I saw Wednesday at Victor Ashe Park while walking with my friend Caroline.
The waffle, egg and bacon breakfast my machine shop friends at work put together Thursday.
The peony today.
The Oreo cookies my editor bought for our department today. (Food is one of my love languages if you hadn't already noticed.)
The glass of White Zinfandel my friend Julie had waiting for me when I met her for dinner tonight.

What unexpected loveys have come into your world today? This week? Were they so ordinary that you didn't see them? Think again. Go back and look. And keep your eyes open.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Scars are sexy.

I saw a sticker on a car recently that said "scars are tattoos with better stories."
I got to thinking about my scars -- like the one from a surgery on my belly button to fix a hernia when I was 14.
Others are not as sexy -- like the one on my left ankle when I nicked myself while shaving a couple of weeks ago. I'm not so proud of that one.
I think of my friend who bears a long gash where her left breast used to be. That gash proclaims her victorious over a mass of cells that tried to claim her life.
My favorite scar story, though, is that of a Jewish Carpenter who more than 2,000 years ago bore nail wounds on His hands and feet while hanging naked on a cross in the Middle East. For hundreds of years, those scars have been making people whole -- emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically.
Kinda gives me a new perspective on what I think are the unsightly things on my bod.
My fellow scar-bearers, let's rock 'em.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bitten by the "single bug"?

I don't mind being single.
But sometimes, it chafes me.
This video came my way through my precious friend Caroline. It made me laugh and was a solid reminder that I'm exactly where I need to be in my life at this moment.

Eyes to see ... really see.

I sat next to a guy with the bluest eyes on a flight from Denver to Atlanta earlier this week. During the three-hour trip, we said maybe 10 words to each other. ("Hi." "Thanks for passing my cup." "Whew, bumpy flight.")
When the plane landed, he whipped out his cellphone and this is what I heard:
"My uncle died. Well, he's about to. He had a brain aneurysm. I'm not sure when I'll be back to work but I'll call you."
I was floored.
We just never know what the people around us are going through and we're oblivious to it.
As we waited for the cabin doors to open, we chatted for a few minutes. His name is Andrew. It's his mother's brother who's dying. He came to Atlanta to say goodbye to his 59-year-old uncle before life support is pulled. He's there to be with his mom who's taking her brother's imminent death pretty hard.

God, give me Your eyes to see people as You see them.

Just finished "The Wisdom of Tenderness" by Brennan Manning
Currently reading "Prince Caspian" by C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The girl with a funny name

I'm a girl with a funny name. And this is my blog.
For about two years I've toyed with the idea of starting this. Not sure why it's taken me this long but I'm glad I've taken the plunge.
You should know that I write for a living ... which is why having a blog seems so daunting. No editors to look over my shoulder. Just me.
I threw around a few titles ("Lola's Travails" and "Write, Lola, Write" are two of my favorites) before I finally settled on just using my name. Afterall, where else can you find so many Os and As and Ls?
So, here I am.