Today is another rainy, dark day and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed after being inside for weeks now, because of the cold winter weather. Id’ give anything to go for a long run in the warmth of the sun. Running is therapy for me. It’s my go to, for all kinds of reasons. I know you’ve heard that before, but let me tell you, it works. I began running at a very early age. Much like most kids, I loved to run and play. But for me, running developed into an entirely different thing. Running for me, was being free.
My father, mother, and two brothers and I moved to the garden Island of Kauai, sometime in 1972. We were living in a small house in the mountains, while our new, home in Wailua homesteads was being built. I remember eagerly anticipating the move daily, as the home we were in was uncomfortable, and I felt like it was pressing in on me. I don’t remember how many rooms there were, but the space was small and simple, unlike the spacious, open, pole house that was being built for our permanent home. We visited the site surrounded by miles of pastures, often with my dad, from the time the earth was churned up, and the foundation was being laid. I was excited and in awe of the way this home was designed and constructed. My father seemed to be the leader of the entire building project. He spoke with the various men on the site, weekly encouraging and directing them through the process of the building. Even though he was a busy doctor, working endlessly at Wilcox Hospital, in Lihue. I was counting down the days, until we would move to this amazing new home.
The small cottage like home we were living in the mean time, was beautiful and quaint. It wasn’t the home, that made me uncomfortable, for it was a beautiful, bright, island home. Rather, it was my mother inside, who in some way, made me feel as if my lungs were being pressed against, held down and smothered just by being in her presence. She was however, a beauty, with long silky hair, flowing down her spine, with a smile that would light up a room. She made pretty clothes for herself, and the very clothes I wore for school, play and even the bathing suits for the beach. Her cooking was desired by everyone, and I was amazed at such a young age, to see the colorful creations she would come up with from the local fruits and vegetables she grew in her very own garden. You would think I would follow her about, wanting to emulate her, and be with her to learn her special ways. Unfortunately, I didn’t. Her lovely smile, wasn’t for me. Her creations and talents had nothing to do with me. Her gifts, that others were fascinated by, had nothing to do with me. There was something very wrong, and I didn’t know what it was. But, I found a way to deal with her disdain for me. I would sneak out the back door leading into acres of green lush pasture lands. I would disappear in the early morning hours to run through the misty grass, and climb lichee and mango trees, surrounding our home, never wanting to come down. I found myself walking barefoot through streams and creeks, picking up tadpoles and geckos on the way, to sneakily bring back and hide in my room. There was nothing I wanted more than to be away from her. It hurt too much to be in her presence. So I would run and get away.
As long as I can remember, I felt this way. My mother didn’t have a gentle, kind way about her. I’ll get into that another time, but for now, let me just say I didn’t know the loving warmth of a mothers touch, hug or kiss. I was afraid to look her in the eyes. For her look was disapproving and made me feel like shrinking so that no one would see me. Her voice made me squirm and panic within, as I knew there was something about to be said that would stifle the air I breathed, and bring a sense of uneasiness to my spirit. I was always two steps ahead of her, watching where she would be, so I could figure out a way around her, so that we won’t cross paths. If at all possible, in a very small house, where she could hear me and see my every move, I would try to disappear.
One day, my brothers and I were outside waiting with excitement as our two dogs, Misty and Mandy were to arrive after a long time of being quarantined, since our move from our New Port Beach home, in California. It must have been months before they passed the rabies safety test, to be allowed into the state of Hawaii. I remember my dad driving up to the house as we all ran out to greet them. They were in their crates, shaking and looking fearful, yet full of energy and excitement. Before I knew it, they were set free from the crates, as they charged off, running into the pastures, they dashed this way and that, rolling in the grass and squealing, and barking so loud that you could probably hear them for miles! We couldn’t catch them or stop them for one moment. They were elated and free, and wanting to run until they dropped into exhaustion. They were out of breath and panting with excitement and joy. They were finally free! I watched them having that same desire they had, to dash and prance about with nothing holding me down. The crates that were small and confining, that pressed into their bodies without room to move, or find comfort, were now a thing of the past. I watched them and smiled with pleasure as they seemed to smile and laugh in their dog way of communicating their happiness.
I remember wanting what Misty and Mandy had. I remember a slight bit of jealousy for their freedom. I knew in my spirit, as I walked back into the house behind my mother, wearing my perfectly crafted dress, trying not to get too dirty, to practice reading aloud with her alone in the kitchen, that I was missing something. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I longed for the freedom my sweet dogs experienced that afternoon. It didn’t exist then for me, and I knew I was trapped and without a voice in her presence. But I knew, that if I could find my way to the back door, without her asking where I was going, I’d be running as far as I could, hoping to find a moment to yell and breath and be free. Misty and Mandy had something I longed for. I knew though, that they had to endure a long journey, of so much unknown, with little comfort or understanding of what was happening to them. I didn’t understand at the time, that I was on a similar journey. I would be trapped for a while, with little comfort or peace. But to be outdoors, in the warmth of the sun, running as long as I could or wanted, was freedom for me. So I ran often.
Today, as I skip my run, (because I’m just to wimpy to get out there in the cold), I think back to those days when I was just a little girl who would give anything to run. I am grateful, that even though I was hurting, I was able run free. I didn’t know it was therapy then. (Now there are bumper stickers for that.) But I knew what it did for my spirit, and that was all I needed. It did free me….But I soon found, it was just for the moment. It was temporary, until I walked back into that little house, and back into my every day life.
I know we all live in situations that can be uncomfortable or stifling for us. Sometimes we will feel lonely and unloved and it’s painful. And sometimes, our situation may truly feel like it is never ending. But in that time, where things are weighing you down, remember that you can run. Not away from, but into. Not physically, but spiritually. Run as slow or as fast as you like, but run… run into the presence of the one who is free.
Much later in my life, I heard these beautiful words from Psalms 23: 1-6. I couldn’t believe the words I heard. “The Lord is my Shepard; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me besides still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my up overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
So amazing right?! He literally led me out to the pastures and through the streams. He was right there with me, on this far away island, reaching down to me from above. He restored my soul. He loved me when I didn’t even know him! He was with me in the valley and gave me no reason to fear. Please know that you are loved and able. Know that you can run when it gets tough. But run to him. Know that He has you, and has prepared a place in advance for you, and that it is so good.