April 15, 2013

Love and Equality

I believe in love.
I believe that I was given love that I never deserved and could never earn by any works of my own.
I believe in giving love.
It doesn't matter who you are, what you believe, or what you stand for...because I have been loved freely I am called to love. 
I also believe in heartbreak.
I know that the people whom I have loved more then anyone else in the world are often the people who are able to hurt my heart extensively.
The friends, the family, whom I love, the people that I would die for, often make choices that, in the heart of my hearts, I cannot support.
I live in a world that condemns me for standing up for what I believe in because it is not the popular thing to believe in.
I live in a world that shouts "freedom!" but only as long as my freedom of speech agrees with their opinions.
I live in a world that does not agree with me when I say that I believe in right and I believe in wrong.
I believe in love, but I am ostracized because I do not believe in the type of the love that is "politically correct".
Boldly, I say it, I do not believe in "politically correct" love.
I believe in a love that is unequaled to any emotion.
I believe in a love that people spit upon.
Love that was mocked.
Love that was unrequited.
I believe in love that was lonely.
I believe in love that was betrayed.
I believe in love that was born into the world different.
Love that always knew that it was set apart from everything else.
I believe in love that society did not understand.
I believe in love that associated with the outcasts, the lowlifes, the sinners.
I believe in love that was not afraid to identity people for who they are, not afraid to say, "She is a prostitute." Or "He is a greedy thief." And yet, the love the I believe in is gracious and generous and has never stopped pouring into the lives of the "lowly".
I believe in a love that hung on a cross for a world that did not, a world that does not, recognize love for what it is.
I believe in a selfless love.
A holy love.
I do not believe in manipulation.
I will not allow emotions to control my thoughts and let the rhetoric of "free speech" induce guilt and shake my resolve.
I am saddened by the ignorance of my generation. My beautiful, proud, adventurous generations.
My peers and my friends.
I am saddened to see thousands of people who do not know how to disagree.
Who cannot see that love and equality are not the same thing.
Love is unequal in every sense of the word.
When you love someone, you place your heart at their mercy. You sacrifice yourself for them. You give everything you have and expect nothing in return. Love is unequal.
Equality and freedom ring true. They are building blocks. They are patriotic. They are the core of the political system that this nation was founded on.
But I cannot begin a conversation with the words "love and equality" because that is an equation that will never add up.
For as long as I have been loved, I have been loved so wholly and so completely, and I have struggled to love the little portion that I do, that I cannot honestly say that the love I give is even near the amount of love that I have been given.
Love does not equal equality.
No, love humbles us to the lowest state that we know and asks us, "How will you love people as I have loved them?"
And I am reminded...
The love the I believe in was spat upon.
It was rejected.
It was believed to be foolish.
It was mocked.
The love that has changed my life, the love that I place my faith on...
It was crucified.

April 9, 2013

My Heart Just Isn't That Into Marathon Training

All week long I have been planning to blog. All week long, I have had some great ideas in my head for the words that I wanted to write.

And yet, in the realness of this moment, there is very little to be said.
In the raw emotion of new news, waiting, and frustration, I am silenced.
Last night I read a verse, or a portion of a verse, from Matthew 28:5,
"Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus..."
The passage continues, but I couldn't get past that first sentence.
My heart trembles at the power of those words.
I am looking for Jesus right now.

For those of you who know me pretty well, you know that I've been training for the full marathon for the past 5 months or so. My "short" runs have the tendency to be 10 miles long.
Hours upon hours of time spent pounding pavement.
Hundreds of miles covered by my feet.
I am 100% invested in this marathon.
When I have struggled to find motivation to keep on going...the one thing that has pushed me further was the thought,
"How do you want to feel when you stand at the starting line on April 28?"
My constant answer?
I want to feel prepared.

Two months ago, on the longest of my long runs, I began to feel a little bit of tightness in the left side of my chest.
I am the queen of thinking, "It's not a big deal."
Just ask me how long I went with torn hip flexor muscles before I was finally convinced that I needed to take a REAL break.
 6 months guys.
 Call me stubborn.
Over spring break I noticed that I couldn't even run 3 miles without some intense pain in my chest...but I chalked it up to a humid climate.
My dad encouraged me to go to the doctor before the marathon.
This past weekend, in the midst of a long run, I reached a point when I got really scared because it was worse then I had ever experienced.

Last summer I had to have some testing done because of a heart murmur that they found. 
Last summer, I remember throwing up my hands and saying, "God, you've got this. Whatever is going on in there, I gave my heart to you. So I guess I meant it physically too."
And it turned out to be nothing worrisome at all.
God is faithful in the midst of our fears.

I made an appointment with my doctor on Monday and they got me in today.
Next Wednesday I'll go to a cardiologist.
Meanwhile, while we figure out what is going on...I've been given pretty strict instructions,
"You can run, but as soon as you feel pain around your heart, you have to stop."
20 years old and they take you seriously, I guess.

19 days away from running my first full marathon and I was just told to stop.
I'm pretty dumb sometimes, I keep running when I shouldn't.
Joints and muscles, ehh...it's whatever.
But my heart?
I get it.
It's a little bit more serious.
I have to take these instructions more seriously.
I am ultimately bummed right now.
And most definitely, unprepared.
This week is crucial to my training.
While I am confident that my body could finish a marathon, I am not confident in the pain that my heart is feeling.
Despite whatever pre-race jitters I have had, I want to run this race with everything inside of me. 
And now...the real whiny Mandy comes out. 
High pitched voice, complaining, "But I WANT to." 
Complete with a perfectly pouting face. 

I won't be stupid with this. The fact that I feel like my heart is being squeezed tight is a reminder that this is real and this is an issue. 
But fear? 
Most definitely not. 
"Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus.." 
I've been looking for Jesus out on the marathon course. 
I've been learning a lot of lessons over the past few months about perseverance.
 Lessons about commitment.
  Lessons about being steadfast. 
I don't know what the point of this lesson is going to be and I'm still hoping that I'll get my chance to figure it out on the elusive 26.2 mile long course...
...but if not, it will be okay. 
I'm not afraid, I'm looking for Jesus right now. 

April 8, 2013

A Hawaiian Perspective - Thoughts From Kaua'i

You know your life has completely changed when you have a free moment to reflect and you realize that you see the world with different lenses then you have ever worn before.
I've been to Hawaii on a few occasions and I've stayed in Princeville for at least portions of three different trips. 15, 17, and now 20 years old. The first trip over to Kauai came right before a dramatic move and some major life changes in our family. The second trip came as I wrapped up my shortened senior year of high school and left home early to pursue my Disney internship. The third trip to the garden isle comes as one last "just us 4" family vacation before I have a permanent plus one. Three different trips and three very different lenses on life. Naive and excited turned to jaded and guarded...and now, jaded has turned into something new for me. The current lens that my eyes wear is softer in general, allowing people to make mistakes, allowing the healing grace of restoration, a lens that accepts imperfections and chooses to love regardless of the messiness of love.
As we drive around beautiful kauai, my thoughts are so clearly able to compare who I was with who I am now. Having someone in my life who has chosen to love me despite my imperfections, despite my impulsiveness, despite my silence when I am mad...having someone who is not family, not "required" to show grace, someone who has chosen to make a commitment to me for selfless reasons, it's changed my whole view on the world. Three or five years ago I had no idea that I would ever get to experience love like this. Young, yes, new, yes, lacking the experience of years upon years, well sure, but love nonetheless. A choice. A new perspective. A lens that I never thought that I would wear.
Where once I saw my future as a nomad lifestyle where the only thing I had to care about was myself, now I see that making selfless choices for someone else is so much more fulfilling.
Where I used to imagine a life with no strings to tie me down, now I understand my dad's statement to me years ago, "home is wherever your mom is." I didn't "get it" at the time. Only now, I understand. Home is where Blake is, wherever that may be. I used to drive around this island imagining all the adventures yet to come...now I get to imagine all the adventures that I'll never have to experience alone.
Life is so much more fun with Blake on it... And life has always been pretty fun anyways!
My lens is so different then it ever had been before. I am beginning to understand how easy it is to be selfish when you are alone and how worthwhile it is to be selfless. I am beginning to see that there is so much more to life then pursuing what I want to do instead of pursing what God wants me to do. It's easy for me to draw back into myself, into my wants and my needs...it's so easy to be selfish. Yet, somehow, as I wear this new lens and look at the world a little differently, I am so desiring to be selfless. To love as selflessly as I have been loved. To give grace with abandon. To spread joy in every moment. In the tricky, sticky, icky moments of life...to say without hesitation, "God is good." I am seeing it more and more every day. All it took was a little perspective, some inspiration, and a familiar drive through the Garden Isle.