I've been biking more lately. When I first started biking, I remember when 15 mile rides were exhausting. I still remember when 30 mile rides (no hills) was exhausting. And then the flat rides became OK. It was more a matter of how long I could stay in the saddle and how fast I wanted to push it. Roads aren't always flat though. Long, flat rides... the safest path is a river trail. It's protected from cars... it's pretty darn flat and you usually end up at a beach somewhere. It's nice. But there's so much more to biking than staying on a river trail.
Biking on normal roads... you'll inevitably come across some hills. It takes a lot more power to bike up a hill... and a lot more energy. Hills wipe me out like no other. Sometimes I feel like I'm biking so slowly, I might just fall over because it feels like I'm hardly moving at all. Sometimes I do have to stop and rest. It's... a necessary challenge though. In order to be a better cyclist, I had to learn how to climb.
I'm learning to climb better as a cyclist. I'm training for a big bike ride at the end of April.
I'm also learning to climb as a person. I'm training for... life... to go a step farther and higher than I was before... to be more and more like Jesus than I was yesterday, last week, last month... last year.
It's painful. There are moments when everything aches... when the burn is so bad, it feels like another muscle contraction is impossible... but the one thing I've been learning lately is... that even though every fiber of my being FEELS like going further is impossible... my heart is stronger than I think it is. I don't feel my heart very often... but it beats and it beats and it beats. All my training is for my body to catch up to where my heart already is.
This past month has been about aligning my actions with my mind and my heart. I've been doing a lot of soul and heart cleaning. I've asked God and also my friends to search my heart and challenge me... and walk with me as I align my life. It's been so fruitful and productive, but it is a "climb". What helps during a climb is to remember what you set out to do and also enjoy the flats and descents... and use the momentum you gain during the easier parts to propel you into the next climb.
Sorry it's vague. There's too much going on simultaneously.
I wanted to write out the stories of my friends... my "butt wipes"... this year. The next friend I want to write about is my friend, Jenn.
The story of Jenn is one of my favorites. Even though all my friends' stories are my favorite, hers is a favorite among favorites.
I met Jenn maybe 5 years ago. At the time, I was working night shift as a RN on a unit which required me to work every other weekend. It was extremely difficult to go to church on Sundays when I worked a 12 hour shift the night before and had to go back to work at 6pm for another 12 hours. Once in a VERY RARE while, I'd get a chance to switch with someone else and I had a Sunday night off during a work weekend. When that would happen, I would drive to church straight from work and either hang out at McDonald's for an hour or so or take a nap in my car... go to service and then go home and sleep. It was on one of these rare Sunday services (that I showed up in scrubs) that I met Jenn.
I never like sitting alone at church but at this particular church, I almost always sat alone. Jenn sat next to me, introduced herself, and we began talking. I found out she was from San Francisco and she was visiting her parents in LA. That day was the first time she was visiting that church. Providentially... I was going to be making a trip up to SF in a few weeks so we exchanged contact information and I told her that since she came to visit my church on her visit to LA, that I would go visit her church on my visit to SF. She even offered to pick me up wherever I was staying and take me to church with her. Even better. I wouldn't have to look for her OR sit alone for any part of that visit. I also have a hard time figuring out the public transportation system in SF. If I decided to drive in SF (which I NEVER do because it scares the jeepers out of me) I can't parallel park for the life of me... and even worse... parallel park on a hill. People who drive me places... definitely hold a special place in my heart. I felt deeply touched by her offer. I couldn't wait to take her up on it.
The time came for my trip to SF and I was staying with a bunch of friends who don't go to church. We'd stayed out late the night before so I figured that I'd wake up early, go to church with Jenn, and be back in time for us to all go have lunch together. As things would turn out... another friend came over, woke up the entire house and was going to take us all out to breakfast. I somehow didn't feel like making more trouble for everyone so I went with the flow of the people I was visiting and visiting with and I told Jenn I wasn't going to be able to go to church with her that Sunday. I was really disappointed.
I was so disappointed (in myself) that I sent multiple texts to her... a week later... and even months after I'd come back from that SF trip... apologizing for not being able to go to church with her and letting her know I'd make it up to her somehow. After one of these seemingly random texts... Jenn responded and told me that I could make it up to her by hanging out with her in LA because she'd actually moved down here for work. Oh crazy. So we met up.
This was the first real conversation I had with Jenn... and I spent most of it talking... she spent most of it listening. I'm pretty sure I asked her how she ended up where she was at and it took her about 10 minutes to tell me. When she asked me the same question, I think I talked for maybe 3-4 hours almost nonstop... telling her about my life story... about... God... about Anderson... and after listening to me talk for that long... she finally spoke and told me that she had just moved to LA, she missed her friends in SF, she was having a hard time finding new ones and then I texted and she responded. She said she felt like God heard the cries of her heart and answered through me. I was so unbelievably touched. And to think that it all happened because I felt guilt and shame and decided to send a random text.
We'd end up hanging out every few months after that. We talked about life. We talked about relationships. And then before I knew it... she was moving back to SF... and seemingly suddenly... was getting married. I thought to myself... this girl moves fast. One minute she's in SF, next minute she's moved to LA... next she's back in SF... and next she's getting married. Craziness. I normally think pretty darn hard about whether or not I want to fly up north to go to a wedding... especially a wedding where I know nobody but the bride. This wedding also wasn't easily accessible... it was way inland... NOT in the city... almost impossible to take public transportation there. I think I also didn't have a smart phone. Driving in SF PLUS driving somewhere without GPS... freaked me out like no other. But Jenn was so nice. She arranged a ride for me. One of her friends would pick me up in SF, drive me to the wedding, and then drive me back. I was touched once again that she would take the time to arrange this for me. If I was even slightly on the fence... her act of service to me was so moving that I knew I had to go. And I'm so glad I did.
Her wedding was one of the most beautiful weddings I'd ever been to. Their wedding program was this gorgeous booklet with birds and flowers and pink and loveliness. Along the bottom of the booklet was a timeline of their relationship... chronicling the moment they met until the moment they were to be wed. It was so detailed. I was even more impressed to find out that it wasn't Jenn that kept these records, it was her fiance. He loved her so much, he took notes. He wrote down dates of when everything happened. To me... that showed extraordinary love. I loved that wedding program. There was also a verse written in English, French and Korean. As I was reading the French... I stopped at one word... the word "submit" in French is some kind of combination word of "sous" and "mettre" which means to place under. It does break down to the same thing in English but I read English words so fast I never stopped to break it apart and really look at it. To submit to a husband means to place myself under. It's kind of "duh" simple but for some reason... it stuck out to me in that moment and I never forgot the image of it. I also listened to him speak of her... share about his hopes for their marriage... and I remember thinking to myself... "THIS is what a godly marriage looks like". Even though I was mostly by myself at that wedding... I didn't feel alone. I felt so washed over by the love of God being expressed at this wedding that my heart was so very full. There were so many super memorable moments I collected at this wedding. It was such a special time.
Jenn and I caught up a little bit after her wedding. She told me she was moving into her house in SF and that I was welcome to visit her at any time. I told her I would.
In total Jenn-speed-racer-fashion... the next thing I know she's pregnant and the next thing I see are her baby pictures up on FB. And I never even got a chance to visit her before her baby was born.
Fast forward a year or so... one of my other friends told me she was getting married in SF... and she had to get married before the year ended because of some kind of cultural thing that says that two siblings can't get married in the same year. Whatever. This was a really good friend and I promised her I'd go. I bought the plane tickets and then started planning my trip. I was just about to book a hotel but I was looking at the stuff on my desk and I just so happened to see the favor from Jenn's wedding. It was a little pot of honey. The thing was on my desk for over a year. I decided to take it downstairs to the kitchen where it might get used. Maybe. But as I was taking it downstairs... I remembered that Jenn said I could stay with her anytime so... I just decided to ask. If she said no, I'd just book a hotel. I actually like staying in nice hotels. As things would turn out... Jenn said that she'd love to have me stay with her. She'd even pick me up from the wedding AND take me to the airport afterwards. I love her so much. She's such an amazing friend.
I ate too many oysters the day of that wedding... I wasn't feeling very well the day after. I decided that I'd just chill and take it easy and spend most of the day reading or being quiet... didn't need to fill that trip with lots of activities whatsoever. Jenn and I caught up for a bit and had breakfast together. We talked maybe for an hour or so and then it was time for her to take a nap while the baby napped. I went downstairs to read and journal. I can't remember if I had another day to spend there or if I was flying back that night. Regardless... I'm pretty sure that I was only sitting downstairs by myself for less than 30 minutes before Jenn comes running down the stairs and blurts out, "I have something I want to talk to you about". I said "OK" and I listened. I listened to my friend pour out her heart and tell me about her daily struggles... about her first year of marriage and how difficult it was to adjust and then to adjust to the baby right after that... it was a difficult "climb" for her and she didn't know who else she could talk to about it. Once again, she said she felt like God answered the cries of her heart by bringing me to SF right at that moment... and I knew that I was meant to be there for her in that moment as well.
I didn't know what I could do or say that would fix anything... but what I did remember so vividly... was her wedding and how beautiful it was. I shared my memories with her. I still remembered them as vividly as if they'd just happened... and then I knew that God nestled those memories in my heart for the very moment that I could remind my friend in the moments where she felt like she was lost in the fog of life's struggles. It was like she was climbing alone... and at the moment when she was about to give in to the pain and the burn... that I came alongside her and reminded her what it felt like to be fresh and new... and loved. I reminded her of the joy of that day as I saw it. I think it gave her a little bit of hope to push on... for another day more... and then another.
I think I might have made one more trip to SF... and maybe sent another few more "random" emails to her over the past year or so... and each time she would tell me that she felt like my email or my trip came at a perfect time to encourage her.
There was another instance in our friendship when I came across a really old picture on facebook of us having tea together with a few other people early on in our friendship... and I commented on that picture and said that we should try to get together again sometime... and she responded that she was actually flying back and forth to LA for some personal reasons and it JUST SO HAPPENED that she'd be staying only a few miles away from where I was doing rotations that month. God's timing in our lives has been more than perfect. Even when neither of us were really looking for one another... it felt like God was bringing so many unrelated situations which together intricately intertwined to allow us to bless and encourage one another wherever we were at.
Just remembering the story of Jenn reminds me how much of an impact we can have on one another's lives... simply by reaching out and asking for it. Neither of us are perfect people and neither of us are perfect friends but our moments of overlap bring my warmth to my heart. I thank God for friends like Jenn. I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot of things and the way Jenn sees it might be different but it was lovely to reminisce on her story. I hope that remembering her tonight will be like a refreshing descent after a long climb... it not only refreshes me by providing a little bit of respite and relief from the hard work of climbing... but the momentum from the speed I pick up will help propel me through the next climb to come.
Anyway... I'm super tired and am REALLY looking forward to sleeping tonight... under an electric blanket... for hopefully at least 7 hours.
much much love to you all... and especially to Jenn...