As catch-up blog posts go, this one is really fun.

In August 2016, I blogged about how I had started running for fun. Also fitness. Also I had signed up for a big race. I wrote about how much I enjoyed it and hoped it would be something I could stick with long-term. And two years after I started… I really love it. I’m not great at it. But I love it (almost 100% of the time. Maybe 92%. There are always bad days, bad runs, whatever). I’m pretty slow. I’m too socially anxious to join a running group. I’m never going to win any medals, is what I’m saying. Oh, and I’m injury prone — probably as a result of living most of my 35 years as a non-athletic, naturally fairly petite couch potato. Now that I’ve gotten more active, I have to do a lot of work to keep my body moving without aches and pains.

Since taking up this sport in January 2016 I’ve run four 5Ks, one 15K, and one half-marathon.

I’ve missed weeks on end with iliotibial band syndrome, complications of hypermobility syndrome, a sprained ankle, and a fractured talus. (That’s a little bone in your foot, and that’s a ridiculous story. I’ll tell that some other day.) I’ve missed at least two races signed & paid for that I DNS (did not start) because of injury.

Yet I’m still running. I now try to run 3 or 4 days per week, and I try to do some cross-training, strength training, and yoga two days a week. I get a massage every single week, chiropractic adjustment once a month, and I’ve got my physical therapist on speed-dial in case I re-injure myself (or injure something new, just to keep life interesting).

I’m training now for my second half-marathon in May. I’ll try to remember to check in afterward and report if I’m still in this.

I kinda hope I’ll be one of those little old ladies still running when I’m sixty. (Maybe by then the field will have narrowed and I’ll win an age group medal. Ha!)

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Writing is a weird hobby pastime obsession activity. On the daily face of it, writing fiction is this radically isolating lone endeavor – which one simultaneously thinks of as deeply intimate and private but also hopes that many eyes will eventually see. It’s a little bit perverse. It’s a little bit holy. It’s almost like a relationship, in the way it elicits emotional responses: the ebb and flow of writing makes me euphoric and amused, catty and cranky, edgy and angry, calm and contented. It’s a good thing I’ve already come to terms with having a brain that’s a little bit abnormal, or else I might seriously worry that writing was driving me bonkers.

I’m still working on a novel – not the one I’ve blogged about before, a new project. Hmmm, wait. It’s been ages since I dusted off the password for this place. Have I blogged about it?

Quick recap: so a while back (holy smokes, it was 2015!) I won NaNoWriMo and I worked on that project until it was query ready in 2016, but after months in the query trenches I decided to shelve that manuscript. I started working up a new idea, reading and researching, but I never got off the ground to write a single scene. I proceeded to spend the first half 2017 bellyaching about how I wanted to be a writer but life was too much in the way. I did all my other jobs to the Nth degree, but I let writing slip to the margins. And that sucked. So at the beginning of this school year (fall 2017), I decided to dive back in. I blocked off time in my daily planner to write – 3 schooldays per week – and I plotted and planned and character-sketched my way into a new manuscript. About 13,000 words in I just… fell out of love with it. I spotted a giant plot hole and I couldn’t think my way through it. There was no way to tidy up those jaggedy edges and darn that opening back together. And thus, that manuscript got shelved, too. My mood got worse – writing makes me crazy in some ways, but now that I’ve started it seems like not writing makes me worse.

I had a giant meltdown about a week ago I don’t wanna talk about it, there was ugly-crying involved, and despair and hopelessness and frankly a lot of melodrama and then I sort of snapped out of my funk. I don’t know what happened. It’s like the meltdown was a giant bolus of emotion that pushed away whatever was clogging up my spirit or my muse or whatever you’d like to call it. I got up the next morning feeling excited to write something new. That night in bed, I checked in with my online writer’s group and clicked a link to an interview with an amazing woman – she’s the author of multiple novels and memoirs as well as a teacher of writing

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I’ve taken up running.

Did I mention this? Probably not. It’s been a minute since I posted here. It started in December. A friend asked me if I’d consider running with her. She was transitioning between a gym and a personal trainer and was considering just saving all that money and switching up her fitness routine by running instead.

I had never considered running. I was always one of those people who joked that if you saw me running, it was probably the zombie apocolypse. But I had really loved going on early-morning walks with this friend (we had worked our way up to 3 miles a day, 4-5 days a week) so I said yes.

I started reading a little bit, I made sure my walking shoes were okay to run in. I bought a headband-ear-warmer thing, and when January 1st rolled around I texted her. “Running tomorrow?”

Err, umm, actually, no. She had found a different gym and wasn’t going to do the running idea after all.

Well, poop. I had psyched myself up for it! I wanted to see if I could do it! So… I did it.

At first, I couldn’t run a full mile without stopping to walk. I used a highly scientific method for “training.” I left my house walking until I felt like I needed to jog. Then I jogged along until I felt like I was going to throw up, at which point I downshifted to walking again. I made myself get outside as often as the weather cooperated.

In January, that was about 4 runs. And in February it was only about 5 runs. But the weather turned pretty eventually, and in March and April I started to really be able to go running with consistency. I started challenging myself for little victories: the first time I ran a full mile without walking! the first time I ran a 5K distance (3.11 miles)! I got an app that tracked my distance, and as I saw my miles tick toward 100, I realized something:

I like this.

As workouts go, I can’t rave about it the way I did P90x3. I did that workout for 90(ish) days and saw insane results. With running – well, see, I want to run a few times a week and still eat pie. So, I haven’t made any big shifts to make myself overhaul my nutrition the way I did during X3. Also, I did x3 six days a week almost every week. With running, I get out there between 3 and 5 days a week. I have lost a couple of pounds, I have lost a couple of inches, but nothing drastic or noticeable to most people.

I like it as a hobby. I like it as something FUN to do. And I think that’s what has made the difference. I’ve never had a physical activity that I’ve stuck with for this long. I’m eight months in to running, getting close to the 200 mile mark, and I really don’t want to quit.

The problem

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Abigail and I were in the van a few days ago, and she told me that when she grows up, she wants to work at Orange Leaf (it’s a frozen yogurt shop where you can put as much froyo as you can fit in your cup, top it with lots of crazy candy toppings, and pay by the ounce – pretty much heaven to a four-year-old).

“What job are you going to be, when you grow up?” she asked.

“I’m already grown up, and I already have a job,” I answered.

“What!?” She started to laugh. “You don’t have a JOB.”

“Yes, I do. My job is taking care of you kids. I think it’s a lot of work.”

“That is not a job, Mama. You have to go somewhere and get paid for a job.”

“Well,” I said, “maybe one day I will get paid for being a writer. Can my book be my job?”

She shook her head at me, hardly believing that I needed these details spelled out. “If you want to be a AUTHOR, you gotta make a stand.”

I was not sure how to process this. Does my kid want me to write a book about a hard-hitting social justice topic? Is she telling me to take a stand for something important and honorable?

“What do you mean?”

“You need to get some boards and nail them together and stand there with your book and people give you money. Like when girls sell lemonade!”

Ah, of course. An author stand. How silly of me.

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Our preacher shared some very wise observations last week in his message, as he usually does. Even though he wasn’t primarily preaching on the concept of Sabbath, he mentioned it as part of his larger picture, and it seemed to dovetail beautifully with my recent focus on self-care.

He said (I’m paraphrasing):

“The idea behind Sabbath is to stop – simply because it’s time to stop. Each of us must carve out Sabbath in our own lives. It doesn’t have to be Judaism’s sundown-to-sundown, nor the 1950’s Blue Laws either. It just has to be a time when – no matter what – we will be with God.”

…which made me think: taking a Sabbath rest is a critical component of self-care.

When we slow down, take a break from our labor, listen to God’s Word and His Spirit, pray or meditate – we center ourselves. We remember to care for our soul. Since it doesn’t feel hunger pains the same way as our stomachs, it’s easier to neglect to feed a soul. Since it neither atrophies nor plumps up before our eyes like our muscles, it’s easier to forget to exercise a soul. But it’s still vital for us to care for our spirit.

In my last post, I only mentioned spiritual self-care briefly. Today, I thought I should offer some suggestions to that end.

Is your spirit parched, mama? Is your soul hungry? Sit yourself down, and be nourished.

 

  • Prayer. You know, talking to God can take so many different forms. Those “popcorn” prayers you toss up all day long – repeating something written centuries ago – jotting your needs in a journal – praying both for people you know and strangers you see in your day-to-day. In some seasons of my life, I’ve found it really hard to pray for myself, but that’s when I can usually still pray over other people.
  • God’s Word. You can go old-school: grab your Bible, flip it open, point to a verse at random, and read that for the day. Or you can go artsy and get a journaling/art Bible. If you’ve always got your phone nearby anyway, there’s an app for that – you can sign up for a devotion series and your phone will ‘ding’ you a notification reminder to log in and read the daily selection. Whatever it takes to fit your life – there is certainly a way to focus on God’s Words to you. (Remember, dear heart: your relationship with God is a relationship in every sense of the word. God loves to hear from you in prayer, but you also need to listen to Him and listen for Him. Can you imagine if you had a friend who ran into the room, talked non-stop for ten minutes, and ran back out – every time you saw her? I’m guessing that you would soon know all about her – but she wouldn’t know you very well. Listening to God through His Word is vital to a deepening relationship with Him.)
  • Meditation.

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A few weeks ago, I hired a photographer friend to take headshots for me. Head shots? Oh geez. I know. It sounds a little hoity-toity. But I had a good reason.

For one thing, I’m pretty sure the last time I had  photos taken of myself –just me!– was when I was pregnant with Susannah (and the last time I had professional photos taken of myself was, oh, the tenth of Never).

For another thing, I was in the midst of the blog redesign and knew I wanted to include a new spot on the front page with my smiling face and a little note of welcome to readers. It just seems like the friendly thing to do!

So Christella met me at a nearby park and took a ton of pictures. She’s just such a sweet, kind hearted person. She blogs about her beautiful family, too – check her stories out over here.) We chatted and laughed and had a great time and then a week later she gave me a CD packed with dozens of great photos. How to choose!? Eeeek.

Here are a few (of the many!) that I just loved:

IMG_5289  IMG_5341  IMG_5419 B&W IMG_5384   IMG_5423

It was so much fun (and it totally counted as one of my self-care hours for the week!) and I’m really loving the addition to the front page of the blog.

 

 

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Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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