Back There, Back Then


Got a new Nike iPod chip for my running shoes. My old one ran out of juice last year as it sat unused in my closet. Got a nifty new iPod running chip velcro pocket holder thing (see photo). The previous chip holder was one Darrin creatively made from one of the fingers from an old glove that sat unused in another closet. We really don’t use gloves much in California. Like barely ever. He cut the finger off the glove, placed the chip in the tip and sewed it closed. Then he glued on a velcro fastener and even glued on the Nike swoosh from the cardboard box the chip came in. I loved using that old chip because it could track the distance and speed of my runs when I used to run and it would sink onto this cool Nike website where I could see graphs of the total miles run, set up training programs or goals and even use Google maps to figure out the distances of the courses I would run through the neighborhood. And to complete this new theme with the new chip, and chip holder,  I’ve put together a new workout playlist on my iPod. Music evokes strong memories and my old playlists reminds me of life back then.

Back then I was running every other day between three and four miles. Back then I was able to run up steep hills. Back then I was ten pounds lighter. The ten pounds I’ve gained started when I went through chemo but remains possibly because of the medication I now take (a common side effect),or it could be my metabolism slowing down from being truly middle-aged, or it could be post treatment comfort eating. Regardless, it’s discouraging. I looked in our pantry and I have one of those ten pound Costco size bags of sugar. It’s a big bag. I did a double take. Yup, ten pounds. Seems that rather than being evenly distributed throughout my frame, the ten pounds have decided to join my mid section to make for an even heftier “muffin top” (a term I first heard from Missy describing the rolls of tummy that squish over the top of zipped up jeans). Back then. My heart longs for back there back then.

I miss my life before cancer, life back then. I was liking the new season of having all three kids in school all day, starting on my Master’s Degree at Talbot, serving on the Epic National Executive Team and actually having a business card and working with the women’s ministry at church. I was, for a brief time, experiencing life with “the sun shining down on me, and life as it should be” to borrow a line from the song, “Blessed Be the Name” by Matt Redmond.

The farther I get from back then, the better back then looks. But if I flip through my journal from back then, I still had struggles, times of conflict with my husband, confusion with how to navigate parenting, challenges with ministry, finances, what to cook for dinner, decisions, deadlines, laundry ….life. I forget that back then also had its share of struggles in the midst of the joys. I forget that it took time–a long, long time, and intentionality to get to a place where I could run hills.

My thoughts lately have been how I am like the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness after leaving Egypt. They longed for the back then of life in Egypt with garlic and leeks. They forgot they were brutally treated in Egypt and what it was like to live in that land as slaves. God provided, in the wilderness, water from rocks to drink, manna from heaven and quail to eat. Their shoes never wore out in the course of forty years. They witnessed with their own eyes God parting the Red Sea and walking through it to the other side on dry land. But despite the miracles, the longer the Israelites wandered in the desert and ate manna, the more their hearts longed for life back there, back then. I used to find myself looking down on the Israelites and how quickly they would forget God and His miracles or complain to Moses or start looking for substitute gods–now I see how very much I am prone to be like them.

Part of this post treatment phase I’m going through now is embracing and accepting that life will never be like how it was back there, back then. Like the Israelites, I have witnessed with my own eyes God perform miracles and provide for us throughout the cancer journey. There are lessons that could only be learned “when I’m found in the desert place, though I walk through the wilderness” (from that same song). God was very near and tender towards me throughout active treatment and my heart is truly grateful for His mercy and grace, but I also find that I have so many more unanswered questions and life doesn’t fit into neat categories anymore. I understand in new ways how and why people, like the Israelites, and like me, struggle with trusting God.

Eventually the Israelites arrived in the promise land. They were able to enjoy new food and drink, which I’m sure included garlic and leeks. But along with the benefits of being in a new land, there were new areas where they needed to trust the Lord, there were battles to fight, and choices to make and new ways God revealed Himself. I am still wandering around in the wilderness and I know this phase won’t last forever even though it feels like forever. While I’m here in the desert I hope to learn more what is going on in my soul and what drives my motivation and my responses. I want to learn to trust God’s timing of when to stay and when to move. I know up ahead there will be new areas to trust God, battles to fight and choices to make. But I am not up ahead yet.

Instead of longing for back then, I have choices and decisions each day living all here, right now. So today during Julia’s soccer practice I laced on those running shoes and, on mostly flat road, I ran longer than I walked. I’m trying to look up and forward, not back.