Monday, August 1, 2011

40 Miles and 1000 Gifts

For the past month or so I've been a little out of sorts.  I've been angry, frustrated, annoyed, uninterested and I haven't liked feeling that way.  That isn't me and it isn't how I like to exist.  I have fought this off and on, trying to let things go, trying not to allow people to get under my skin or hurt my feelings, and I've had varying degrees of success, but nothing lasting.

This weekend we went to Florence, AL to do the W.C. Handy bike ride.  I was planning to do the 40 or the 60 mile, and Jason was doing the full 107.  I was not really looking forward to this.  I didn't have a buddy and I get so bored riding by myself for hours.  I was dreading it and Jason could tell.  I tried to put on a happy face for him because I knew he wanted and needed this ride, and I did not want him to feel bad about that.  I enjoy doing these things with him, even if some of them aren't my cup of tea.

And I knew from last year that this ride was beautiful, so I thought I just might surprise myself and enjoy it.  I wanted to enjoy it.

Jason stayed with me for a few miles before riding on.  As I rode along, I could feel the feelings of anger and frustration and boredom begin to well up and I fought them again.  I talked to God about it, I tried to soak in the peaceful morning beauty of the fields surrounding me.  I tried not to think of 40 lonely miles of just me and these fields...

And then out of nowhere someone said, "I like your shoes!"  I looked to my left and there was a rider.  I looked down at my shoes in confusion before saying thanks.  She asked me how far I was going and I said either 40 or 60 depending on how I felt. I forgot to ask her what she was doing.  We rode close together for a while each taking turns in front.  I decided it had been rude not to return the question, so I asked her how far she was going.

And we chatted the rest of the way.  It was the most lovely ride!  She was from Athens and worked at the Athens Wellness Center as a fitness instructor, so we had plenty to talk about.  Before I knew it we had reached the 20 mile aid station.  I asked her if she was interested in 60 miles and she said she was, but that her mom and daughter were waiting on her for lunch.  I decided 40 miles with company was better than 60 miles alone, so I went with her.  It was the fastest 20 miles of my life.  It went by fast because we chatted the entire way, but we also kept a good speed.  It was much faster than I usually go and I had to work to stay with her - but I enjoyed that part too!

We finished our ride, exchanged information, and got ourselves stretched out by two chiropractors who had set up tables at the finish pavilion.  I sat at a picnic table in the shade for a bit and contemplated the gift that had been my new riding pal.  And the gorgeous day.  And the cool breeze that went away shortly after my ride was concluded.  I was thankful.

Upon returning home, however, all the feelings of thankfulness and joy that accompanied my ride began to drift away.  Sunday I found myself angry and aggravated at the state of things around me.  I did not enjoy church service, I did not want to sing, and I began allowing people and circumstances to feed my anger until I was just boiling.

What was my problem?  I could not figure it out, but I knew something needed to change and fast!  I'd talked to God about it and nothing had changed.  I tried to change my attitude and talk positively to myself, but nothing would stick.  So, I called my counselor and adviser, Mom. 

"Mom, you gotta counsel me," I said. "You've gotta lay it down and set me straight.  My attitude is wrong and I can't seem to get it right again."

So Mom asked me if the book she had ordered for me had come in. It had and I'd just opened the box a few minutes ago.  The book was "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp.  She told me to turn to page 136 and she read a bit to me.  

"You can't positive-think your way out of negative feelings....Feelings work faster than thoughts; blood runs faster than synapses. The only way to fight a feeling is with a feeling.  Feel thanks and it's absolutely impossible to feel angry.  We can only experience one emotion at a time.  And we get to choose - which emotion do we want to feel?"

My heart and soul perked up a little.  How could it be that Mom had ordered me a book that had come in just this weekend, and now she'd turned to the exact page I needed?  She said that the author had decided to count the gifts God had given her every time she began to feel something she did not want to feel.  Now there's much more to it than that (and I am now on page 38, so I'll be able to explain more eventually), but it is a great start for me.

Mom, as always, knew what to say.  She read that portion of the book and then addressed some of the things I had said were burning me up.  Before hanging up, we decided to e-mail each other every day with 5 gifts.  At first I thought every day might be excessive, but then I started counting...

I see that I've been an ungrateful little brat, to put it bluntly. A child with hands on hips, stomping one foot shaking her finger at God and saying, "This is NOT what I had in mind!"  And while these feelings rage on inside, there are things I know.  First, I know for a fact that God is wiser and smarter than me, and I definitely want things done His way.  No doubt about that. That doesn't mean I like it all the time, or that I will always act right, but at the end of the day (or tantrum), I know His will is what I want.  Second, I know He loves me with a love I cannot fathom...which is a good thing since I've been such an unlovable, ungrateful snit lately. 

And third, this gift counting thing just might work.  It will take some doing, of course. I can't change a spoiled brat overnight.  But I can change her.  As for the 5 gifts I'm sending Mom, here they are.  Of course, the list I'm not e-mailing is much, much longer...

1. A new friend on my bike ride Saturday.
2. The breeze that day and the perfection of the blue sky.
3. Jason's sweet words and kind eyes.
4. A wise mom who points me to God every day.
5. The book, "One Thousand Gifts."


  1. Love this post! I struggle with those feelings a lot too, so I feel your pain! And I just downloaded "One Thousand Gifts" onto my Kindle last weekend! Now I'm really pumped to read it.

  2. You will have to let me know what you think once you read it. We should meet for coffee and discuss. ;)

  3. Jane, Thank you for sharing so openly about your recent struggles. We all find slumps along the way. I can imagine the beautiful plae you stopped (pictured in your entry) helped lift your spirit. And I hope the book and you mom's support will also be a help.