Sunday, February 20, 2011

Man's Search for Meaning

This book was recommended to me about ten years ago.  I picked it up on a road trip and had it finished before I stepped off the plane.  It's a pretty quick read, but what you take from it really depends upon your station in life.  I've read this book three times.  Each time, my understanding was deeper, and I find myself referencing some of these thoughts on a daily basis.  The reason?  It's a book about hope, and the control that each of us has to choose the lenses that we see the world through.  It is one of those books that can be quite profound.  Like, you read a couple of passages and you start to reflect, and then whoa, it hits you deep and you have to think about it and how you can apply it to your own life.
I've been told that I am a thinker.  I've also been told I'm a slow trickle.  I don't know, maybe that is true.  I often reflect deeply on the things in my life that I am passionate about, and I find it difficult to rest until I come up with solutions or ways to make sense of it all.  Viktor Frankl writes about his experience in a concentration camp.  The passage below is one of those profound ones that might leave you thinking too:

... We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor's arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: "If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don't know what is happening to us."
That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth -- that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way  – an honorable way  – in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, "The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory...."

Ummmm.....this just leaves me so humbled.  The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that, " these three remain, faith, hope and love.  And the greatest of these is love."  One of my theology professors at Santa Clara introduced us to the Greek word for love, agape.  Agape love is God's perfect love...."for God so loved the world......"  Agape love is a tradition shared by eight of the world's religions.  Frankl was correct when stating that love is "proclaimed as the final wisdom of so many thinkers." 

Love is powerful.  Love transcends all things.   Even in the face of loss, love is the one thing, in my humble opinion, that does not change.  Our hearts are forever changed by love.  I guess most of us probably experienced this most profoundly at the birth of our children.  Quite possibly one of the biggest miracles I've ever witnessed, and undoubtedly, the most unconditional kind of love around.
This image of my three girls is one that I will carry for my entire life.  My favorite!
This might be the dumbest revelation ever, but I've come to realize that I am not in complete control of my own life.  There has to be a greater power at work.
These are the thoughts that have swirled in my head for quite some time.  "The image we carry of our beloved"....well, it's not just an image, it's the feelings of love and the laughter of moments that we've shared together that help us hope for what is yet to come.  At Christmas time this year, I was able to have a painting made for my friend Jennifer.  When Olivia passed, her heart was donated to a little boy in Hawaii.  The story behind this is incredibly moving.....a higher power was certainly at work.  I wanted to capture an image of Olivia that represented hope, that captured Olivia's spirit, and that might allow my friend to find fulfillment in the contemplation of an infinite glory.  My artist friend Jessica literally rocked my world with what she created.  

I for sure do not have all the answers.  Remember when you were a kid and you could lie on the grass and stare up at the clouds, designing all sorts of shapes?  Inevitably, these are the moments that make you realize how small you really are when compared to the universe.  I would highly recommend taking a peek at this book!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Partners in Pain

OK, so I'm new to this blogging thing, and I will admit, there's a certain kind of undue pressure that I'm putting on myself to keep ideas flowing on this blog.  It's been a while since I posted something.  It's not for a lack of things to say, it's for a lack of the pictures to go with it.  You know, words only say so much, it's really the pictures that people want to see. 
Additionally, the year's posts to date have sort of started out with some tear jerkers.  I know this because people are telling me that they always know to read my posts when no one else is around!  Oh my.  I promise it's not intentional, it's just the way that life has been lately.
Today we ran a race.  It was called Partners in Pain.  I suppose it's name might make some expect to hear another tear jerker of a story.  Partners in Pain is all about running 5K with a partner.  At the end, your combined score can earn you prizes....except that I've run this race many times and I've come to know for sure that me and my partner will NEVER win any running prizes.  Our prize is signing up for the race, actually showing up to run it, and checking it off the list of goals for 2011.  And, damn that feels good!
This is my partner.   He is a much faster runner than I am, but I still like him.  He still shows up to these race events with his Garmin on, sets the race pace he's looking for, has a strategy, and compares the stats from previous years so that he knows where he's been and where he could be.  In other words, he's such a GUY.
As for me, I used to follow this same mentality.  I mean, there was a time in my life where I was ultracompetitive and I really had a drive to train seriously and then get after it.  But these days, it's more about the event than the actual race.  Here's what I'm talking about:
Here's the whole group of us ladies who showed up to run Partners in Pain together.  Actually, I only knew that four of us were running.  I didn't realize we would have such a crowd.  But it sure was fun!
Here's Mel and Jen.  The Guerrero girls made this sign for them and came to cheer them on.  Jen's wearing Team Liv On, in honor of her daughter Olivia.  The run today was a chance for all of us to set a goal and then go out there and accomplish it, each at our own pace, and for our own purpose.  I cannot speak for anyone else, but my main goal today was to encourage my friend Jen to nourish her own soul through running some races this year.  Running and being outside just have a way of making you feel so alive.  The energy of a group of people who come together to conquer a road race is contagious.  Seeing the "real runners" with their singlets and super small running shorts as they start heading to the finish is inspiring.  Watching the group of ladies that I was part of conquer the course, each at their own pace, was equally inspiring to me.  We did it!  And for Jennifer, well, I saw her smile today and she meant it.  I also heard her say, "I've got to train for this next one."  This made me smile even bigger. 
The reality is, life is hard, and tragedies in our lives make it harder.  But, when you have a friend who, within hours of losing her daughter, was able to coin the term, "LIVE ON!"....well, it just sort of makes you want to work harder.  That is a special kind of person, and someone that I want to stick close to!  
I'll sign out with this final picture.  This is Jen and I, at age 14, at the Bloomsday finish.  My dad took this photo of us.  I'm trying to make sure the finish camera catches my wave, and Jen and I are holding hands pulling each other to the finish.  I find this picture just a tad symbolic of what life is like.  Thank God for friends who share a passion for life, and who are unafraid to reach out and pull each other along.  And sometimes, when the pain is really bad, that God gives us the strength to reach up and give a wave.  Jen, we are LIVING ON!  Thank you to all the ladies who showed up to run today.  See you in March at St. Paddy's Day Five!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Power of Giving

January at our house is birthday month.  To be honest, I wouldn't have picked January to give birth, except that when you are coaching a Division I soccer team, January fits right between fall and spring season, and is the best time to have a baby and still be back on the field in April to coach!  When my middle daughter started talking about what she wanted to do for her 11th birthday, I was pleased that her dad had suggested an indoor soccer birthday party, and even more pleased that she thought this was a great idea!  When our friends the Lee's heard this idea, they said, wouldn't it be fun to run a joint 11th birthday party?  The guest list would include the Spokane Shadow soccer team that both Payton and her friend Maddie play for, so why not join forces and make it a two for one?
Here's their Shadow team.  Maddie is on the far left, and Payton is fourth from the left.

The girls got busy planning out the party, and the moms started planning out the food, the drinks, and the invitations.  As we began to think about it, all of us came to the same conclusion.....wouldn't it be nice if instead of asking our guests to bring gifts, what if they brought a donation instead for a very special U10 Spokane Shadow soccer player who was tragically killed last June in a car accident?
This little girl, Olivia Chaffin, was a vibrant, athletic, energetic kid with a huge heart.  Her life has made such an impact on the Mead community that the Mead School District put together an education fund in her name, The Olivia Chaffin Memorial Fund, which will serve Mead students for years to come.
This is Olivia.
 Olivia's parents, Rick and Jennifer, are both Mead teachers.  Jennifer and I have been friends since we were eight years old.  To give words to what a tragedy this has been for this family is difficult to do.  That's why sometimes actions speak louder than words.  The Mead community, the Mead School District, and family and friends have tried to do whatever they can to lift this family up.  When it was decided that Payton and Maddie would collect donations at their party instead of gifts, my heart skipped a beat.  We know that none of this will bring Olivia back, but the power of giving and understanding the impact of that gift is one of the greatest lessons in life. 
The party went off great....perfect venue for a bunch of athletic little girls who love to run around and play soccer.  But the real prize came when it was time to open the donation envelope to see how much money Payton and Maddie would be donating to the fund.  The generosity of their friends, and their friends' parents was just incredible.
Last night, Payton and Maddie were invited to the Mead School District Board Meeting.  At the meeting, they presented a check for $400 to the Olivia Chaffin Memorial Fund.  The Board President told the crowd that there are a lot of bad things that go on in this world, but it is gestures like this one that renew our faith in people.  Another board member said, "Amen!"
As parents, we could not have been more proud of our girls for making this happen for Olivia and her family.  We are so thankful for the parents of Payton and Maddie's teammates who helped us put together a check for $400 to start out this fund.  This is a birthday that Payton and Maddie will remember for the rest of their lives.  I am one proud Mama!