OKC Memorial Marathon 2014

Today marked my third opportunity to participate in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. The first year, I ran a 5k on a marathon relay team (5 people cover the distance of the marathon 5k, 10k, 12k, 5k, 10k), the next year I did a 10k on a relay team, and this year I did a half marathon. The day was really crazy, which made it even more fun. The crazy was the two-hour start delay due to weather. Thunderstorms don't care if over 26,000 runners got up before the crack of dawn to go run a race. So, if you were in OKC this morning, you were likely huddled in parking garages, under pavilions, in your car if you didn't park forever away, or anywhere else you could find for shelter from the storm. I like being huddled with random strangers. Truly.

Like the half marathon I ran in February, I had no idea how this one would turn out. I injured my knee in October, and in order to avoid injuring it further (a lesson I learned after injuring it further by refusing to quit training until two months after the initial injury), I stopped running just about altogether. BUT I wasn't going to miss out on my first half-marathon (the one in February), so I went to my hometown, Apache Junction, Arizona, and took on the 13.1. And I was glad I did, even though I ended up hurting my knee even more. I FINALLY went to a chiropractor after I ran, and through a series of adjustments and treatments, my knee stopped hurting around Spring Break. Oh, and then I got shingles on my thigh over spring break. Shingles hate anything touching them. I moved very little.

All of this is to say that I have run two half-marathons this year with absolutely no preparation. I'm sure I'm not alone with my grand visions of rock star running times when I register for these races because between the time I register and race day, I'm certain I'll be able to pour in the hours of training I need. (Did I mention that today's race was supposed to be my first marathon, but after running my first half and realizing I was still very injured, I changed my registration from a full marathon to a half?) These two races have been amazing, despite a humbling time attached to my name - I won't say "despite" the time  - part of the amazing is because of the time. Because even though I didn't know what the time would actually be, I knew it wouldn't be the seven minute miles of my youth, I managed to convince really competitive BrieAnn that it didn't matter. And it doesn't. Would I love to show up to a half-marathon and actually feel like I'm racing? Absolutely! But I'm really glad I didn't let that desire get in the way of the experiences I was able to have.

So, what does a half marathon look like for me with no preparation? Both were in the 2:40's. I'm ecstatic that my injured knee didn't hurt at all today. Not one bit, but wary that my other knee (and hip) feel exactly the same way the other side did at the beginning of my injury. NOOO! This time I know what to do, so hopefully it won't progress the same way.

Highlights of the day:

-Getting to watch the storm roll by.
-The course: the Memorial Marathon course is AWESOME! There's always something interesting to see, and SO MANY people line the course. It's wonderfully supportive and encouraging, and it makes me so proud of the city I live in.
- Annie. She's been on the relay team with me for the last two years, but we both signed up for the half this year. We got to start the race and run with one another a few times (until I ran out of steam!). I loved getting to run with her because she's just part of the event to me.
- The strangers who encouraged me by name (written on my bib). No matter what, when you're feeling bad, it feels good for someone to shout out a kind word connected to your name.
- Knowing how to properly fuel my body. After my first half, I asked my friend, Jennifer for advice on eating before and during a long race (I so didn't do it right the first time). When I went through the water stops, I always grabbed at least three cups of fluid. Usually 2-3 Powerades, and 1 water. And I drank them all. I'd also cut up cliff bars into bite-sized pieces to grab as I went through water stops. After mile seven in my first half, I started feeling really sick to my stomach. I'd run until I felt like I was going to throw up, then walk until I felt better - over and over again. When I was done running, I still felt sick, and it wasn't until I ate lunch after the race that I started feeling better. It was night and day. This time, I didn't ever feel sick from being so depleted. That was nice. [And a little shout out to Jennifer who finished her seventh marathon today. I was happy to run into her on the course.]
- This isn't really a highlight, just a random observation - Anyone who's ever run knows that it's a fact that gas slips when running. I don't know if it's because there were SO many runners (which was fantastic), but there were several occasions where the smell in the air made it very apparent that I was running through the gas cloud of someone in front of me. No judgement. And yes, it's a little gross, but even more than being gross, it made me want to giggle in a really silly 8-10 year-old humor kind of way, like you can't help but fall a part and laugh as you point out the very obvious, "Someone just farted." #allinthistogether
- All of the familiar faces on my way.
- This happened last night, but because the marathon course completely surrounds Dot (our house) as it winds through our neighborhood, we had to leave a car in front of our friends' house so Jake could get to his work-church this morning. We went to the first act of South Pacific at OCU, and then to the Paramount for a bit before parking our car sometime around 10:30. It was so fun to walk home at night from one side of our 'hood to the other. It felt something like running at night (one of my favorite things to do), but with some fun company.

And lastly, because of how we can't get cars in or out of our part of the neighborhood because of the course, I couldn't really think of a good way to get home (Annie and her husband, Kyle picked me up), so I walked. Yep. I walked 1.8 miles home. With ice strapped to my knees. I practically went 15 miles. I'm going to go ahead and say I did a 6/10 marathon. Lucky for me, Jake was walking home from parking the car in front of our friends' home after work-church, and our paths crossed four blocks from Dot.

Me after the half standing in front of the OKC Memorial before my epic walk home.

The thing I didn't say - an addendum to Ordain Women

When I was writing the Ordain Women post, I took out a paragraph about a certain line of reasoning I hear from time to time used to justify why women don't have the priesthood. I took it out because I didn't want to offend anyone who feels it is an adequate answer, but after hearing the line of reasoning reiterated in a talk by Dallin H. Oaks in the priesthood session - the first time I've ever heard it come from the pulpit, mind you, I wanted to share the thoughts that I originally omitted. Here's the line, usually a simple answer mothers give to their children:

"Men have the priesthood, and women have babies." There are other offshoots, like, "Men have the priesthood, and women are co-creators with God."

Dallin H. Oaks stated, "The Lord has directed that only men will be ordained to offices in the priesthood […]" He then followed with a quote from J. Reuben Clark,

"Only to his daughters has God given the power to be a creator of bodies so that God's design and the great plan might meet fruition."

I disagree with this line of reasoning. And I have a physical reaction when I hear it. I first heard the "women are co-creators with God" line when I was pregnant and in the trenches of hyperemesis gravidarum with Magnolia. My very initial thought was, "What a lovely sentiment," followed quickly by, "WAIT A MINUTE!"

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I always thought Jake and I made babies together. Unless immaculate conception is happening, men and women share equal parts in the body creation process. I think it's a low blow to men to say otherwise [just like I think it's unfair to say that men have the priesthood to make up for their lack of sensitivity, intuition, and nurturing abilities]. Sure, I had the special privilege of birthing…and expanding, and barfing, and weeks of hospitalization, and getting cut open with one and ripped a part with another, not to mention the crazy emotional roller coaster that comes post birth. I love that responsibility. Truly. Do I sometimes wish I didn't have several inches of extra skin on my abdomen? Sure. But just because my babies grew inside of me, doesn't mean they aren't just as much Jake's. Or that they're mine any more than his in God's eyes.

What does that mean for all the women who can't have children? Or for the women who never marry and live the law of chastity? I can think of several other reasons why women aren't ordained to the priesthood that make way more sense to me than my ability to carry a child. Actually hearing a general authority say it, instantly made me think of all of the other completely erroneous reasons given in the past by leaders of the church as to why the priesthood was withheld from other worthy people throughout the church's history. Wait a minute…extended and then retracted and then withheld….oh, and then re-extended. Fence-sitters in heaven, anyone? A cursed people. And now a woman's uterus as the organ that can sustain the life she and a man create until it is ready to be born.

The analogous role to a mother is not a priesthood holder, it's a father.


I read a post at By Common Consent today that did a good job describing something I've been thinking about, but haven't taken the time to hash out. The whole post is good, but the part that allowed me to finally put a finger on this elusive feeling floating around me was pretty much summed up in about the first seven paragraphs (down to the end of the quote by Alexander Pope). Here's a taste: 

Faith crisis–often leading to faith transition–is a “thing” these days. Someone innocently does a google search, travels down some online rabbit hole, and soon discovers weird–sometimes really weird–stuff about the Mormon past. These substantive issues are troubling enough on their own, but pretty soon they cease to be the primary issue. Rather, the fact that the person was never taught about these things at Church becomes the dominant issue. The person feels as though she has been lied to all of her life. The image she has constructed in her mind of a church that never changes, where everything is perfect, where the prophet has afternoon tea with Jesus Christ himself every Thursday afternoon in the temple, comes crashing down around her shoulders, as she considers for the first time the very human institution that is the LDS Church. 
Those who have gone through an experience like this often toss around a brief list of issues as a sort of shorthand for the longer list of problems the person has encountered that has fractured her faith, often something like “multiple first vision accounts, polyandry, Book of Abraham, a stone in a hat, City Creek Mall.” Is there anything that can be done to help these people?
Admittedly, coming across some things that have happened in the history of Mormonism have been shocking and upsetting, but like I said in a previous post, none of those things have been deal breakers for my faith. The hardest thing for my membership in Mormonism has been a reconciliation of certain things while still dealing with the death of "the only true church." Since I've moved passed my hangup (mostly) with "the only true church," the "list" is far less detrimental. It exists, and it's a bummer of a reality that just about every history of anything is a little [or a lot] muddy. 
I'm trying to figure out how to come to my point without writing a novel - I guess it's something like this: I know several people, either in person, or via the internet, who have come across hard facts in Mormon history, and they have gone from being active, immersed in church-life, the whole nine-yards of Mormon to a total abandonment of Mormonism in a very short amount of time. I know this is because of the "it's true or it isn't true mentality." Part of their "true" broke off, and if one part falls, everything else does too. (Are Mormons reading this envisioning the "cornerstone" and "keystone" lessons we've had more times than we can count throughout the years the way that I am?) 
I don't fault anyone for this quick departure. I just feel like it's a diminished way to go through what ultimately can be a powerful transformative (albeit REALLY HARD) process. I guess there isn't really a lot of "going through" in just severing ties. I don't want this to read at all like I think anyone is handling it wrong because there is absolutely no right. I also think there's something valuable about knowing when to let go, I just think making that decision shouldn't be a knee-jerk reaction. 
To answer Kevin Barney's question (the author of the post), "Is there anything that can be done to help these people?" Yes. Very obviously it's find a way to incorporate the complete history of Mormonism in the curriculum we see as we grow up in the church. It lessens the blow - the feeling of having been lied to. And then we can have "real" conversations about it as adults in a faith community that actually feels like a community. I think it's important to see Mormonism in its time and place amid all that was going on societally. It makes it human. It makes it make sense - even if some of us wish "the only true church" would have come through various societal woes unscathed. 
I really like what Kevin Barney suggests later in his post (his main point, really), that we dive into Mormon scholarship, and make that the basis of our knowledge of Mormon history, rather than a brief snippet someone says in a post about something that turns out to be earth shattering for someone else - the thing that starts someone's list. To restate the Alexander Pope quote (assuming you read it for this to be a restatement), 
A little learning is a dangerous thing;  
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring: 
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, 
And drinking largely sobers us again.
As I've been exploring when and why and how this journey of faith and doubt began for me, I think I've finally figured it out. I was 18, and it wasn't a huge explosion of "WHAT JUST HAPPENED!?!" It was relatively small, very personal, had nothing to do with church history, and ended up being the first straw on the camel's back. The same camel's back has a whole lot more straw, but it isn't broken yet. (And just for complete honesty, I still go back and forth sometimes about whether it was the event when I was 18, or something that happened when I was 16.)

This has been a long journey for me, with the REALLY HARD part starting about 5.5 year ago. I've also previously stated that my faith crisis isn't one of personal faith, but of my faith community. I had faith in the Mormon Church -in the way it is set up, in what the leaders had to say, in the "only true" part of it. When that pillar crumbled, largely due to a deepening understanding of the nature of God and in the role of Christ as exemplar, my belief system wasn't completely shot (again, all very personal - this deepening understanding could strengthen a pillar of faith in the Mormon church for someone else). So I think I'm about to make my real point -

I'm not exactly like the people in faith crisis/transition mode that were described in the Dialogue Diet post. I'm obviously in it for the long haul, or have tried my best to be. I rarely dive into blogs specifically about Mormonism (like the one that inspired this post - ironic, right?) as well as podcasts like Mormon Stories, so I'm missing out on being superficially exposed to "problematic issues in Mormonism's past." I don't think there's anything wrong with them, and I used to read them more often because there was comfort in common sentiments, but I often feel like it's information overload. I guess it's because I came to a point where I didn't like information being second hand - I would rather read something "scholarly" and experience my initial response than experience the emotional response of someone else. I don't have a running "list" at the heart of my struggle. I have the present day church. If "only true" is now out of the equation (not entirely - it still takes my breath away sometimes), which makes any "list" I could have far more forgivable (which makes it easier to stick around), then I have a whole slew of other churches/faith communities that are waiting to be explored. But I want to stay tethered. But there are times when I have no idea why I'm remaining tethered to Mormonism besides fear.

I don't trust the church. There are moments when things are said by leaders that enliven me, but many more things that disappoint me. I don't know how long I should keep waiting to feel a little bit comfortable again. Or how long I should continue in what has become an unhealthy relationship. I'm at a loss for how to turn it around. I'm at a loss for how to feel comfortable saying, "I'll give a little [trust] because I know you're something worth sticking it out for (the latter of which I'm not always certain)." I'm trying to remain vulnerable while protecting every vulnerability because of the way it hurts to be disappointed by something you love so much. My attempts at expanding my depth of knowledge so far (I've been implementing Kevin Barney's suggestion for quite a while - though not his specific sources), have done little to alleviate this internal tug o' war.

I'll leave you with a poem by Anne Sexton because I thought of it when trying to come up with a title for this post (which I still have not).

The Rowing Endeth

I’m mooring my rowboat
at the dock of the island called God.
This dock is made in the shape of a fish
and there are many boat moored
at many different docks.
“It’s okay,” I say to myself,
with blisters that broke and healed
and broke and healed–
saving themselves over and over.
And salt sticking to my face and arms like
a glue-skin pocked with grains of tapioca.
I empty myself from my wooden boat
and onto the flesh of The Island.

“On with it!” he says and thus
we squat on the rocks by the sea and play–can it
be true–a game of poker.
He calls me.
I win because I hold a royal straight flush.
He wins because He holds five aces.
A wild card had been announced
but I had not heard it
being in such a state of awe
when He took out the cards and dealt.
As he plunks down His five aces
and I sit grinning at my royal flush,
He starts to laugh,
the laughter rolling like a hoop out of His mouth
and into mine,
and such laughter that He doubles right over me
laughing a Rejoice-Chorus at our two triumphs.
Then I laugh, the fishy dock laughs
the sea laughs. The Island laughs.
The Absurd laughs.

Dearest dealer,
I with my royal straight flush,
love you so for your wild card,
that untamable, eternal, gut-driven ha-ha
and lucky love.

Too often, God, your name is used

Too often, God, your name is used to sanction hate and fear, so love and justice are refused to people you hold dear. 
O never let us use your name to harm or hurt or kill or consecrate a vicious aim as your almighty will.

But move through us in deeds that spell your name as Love and Light, for faithful actions far excel beliefs that we recite.
Let naming you through how we live become our public creed: the clearest witness we can give is meeting human need.

And keep us ready to receive the good that others do, that helps expand what we believe and why we trust in you.
For where deep love and justice meet we see anew your face and for a moment glimpse complete the world transformed by grace.

That vision opens wide the church to look beyond its walls, to honor all who ask and search for where your Spirit calls. 
Their questions and their wondering help us more fully claim our mission as an offering that glorifies your name.  

- Thomas H. Troeger

Ordain Women

A group of Mormon women have organized themselves and are actively pursuing priesthood ordination for women in the LDS church. Their group is called Ordain Women.

Twice a year, in April and October, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds a general conference. One of the five two-hour-long sessions held over the weekend is specifically for men and young men (12 and older), and is called the Priesthood Session. (There is a General Women's meeting for women and girls (8 and older) held the weekend prior to general conference.) At the October 2013 Priesthood Session, Ordain Women came and peacefully asked for admission (admission was declined). That's when they became a blip on my radar. 

They are planning to do the same thing at the April Priesthood session coming up this Saturday. And while I hadn't thought much about them over the last six months, a couple of weeks ago, the LDS church publicly released the letter they sent to the leaders of Ordain Women asking them to reconsider their plans to try and gain entry into the Priesthood Session because "activist events like this detract from the sacred environment of Temple Square and the harmony sought at General Conference." The letter continues, "If you feel you must come and demonstrate, we ask that you do so in free speech zones adjacent to Temple Square, which have long been established for those wishing to voice differing viewpoints."

After reading the letter, which was also when I found out about OW's April Conference plans, I started thinking about whether or not I support what these women are doing. In October, I was proud of their courage. I was proud of them for being a source of strength for one another in what had been and continues to be a source of pain for some Mormon women. I didn't love how they were doing it in terms of trying to get into the Priesthood Session, BUT I totally get why they chose that time and place. In terms of demonstrations, it makes perfect sense. It's a powerful way to make a point, whether well received or not.
I was especially touched by this photo of Stephanie Lauritzen, who had actually gone to participate with OW on a whim, and was embarrassed that this picture was taken and widely circulated. Regardless of how or why she was there, I was glad to see her face. She is my sister (in the sista-from-anotha-mista kind of way), and that smile and tear did something to my heart. 

After reading the church's letter to OW, and remembering this face, in the last few weeks I've asked myself two things, "Would I have gone in October?" and "If I could, would I show up on Saturday to support this movement?" I feel like my answer to both questions is, "No." Not because I don't want to support these women who are doing something difficult and brave in being strong when their hearts are hurting, but for many of the reasons I couldn't get behind "Wear Pants to Church Day:" I try to avoid groupthink, and [up until a few days ago] I've never felt put out by not having the priesthood.

In terms of becoming part of a group with an agenda - it can't help but create division. Women were so ugly toward women who decided they wanted to wear pants to church because they couldn't understand the gender inequality women were feeling in the church, and women are being ugly to one another about whether or not they think women should hold the priesthood for the same reason. My least favorite attitude is "If you don't like it, leave." I think what I'm trying to say here is easily understood - camps have been set up, trenches are being dug, claws are coming out. 

After "Wear Pants to Church Day," the majority of Mormon women came out saying that not holding the priesthood didn't make them feel unequal to men in the church. I understand this on many levels: women hold leadership positions in the church, they speak and pray in their congregations, co-decision making is encouraged between husband and wife. Women can even stream the Priesthood Session that OW keeps trying to get into. In these ways, women are never put upon or left out. 

For me, I don't feel like not being ordained to the priesthood affects my ability to love or serve or grow closer to God. Ultimately, on a personal level, I don't think it's a matter of haves and have-nots. I don't have it right now, and that's okay. And if tomorrow the church said that women would be ordained to the priesthood, that would be perfectly okay too. Last week, however, something really simple struck me. I can't remember where or how, just a prompting that came in an instant while I was in my kitchen making a meal: "Women cannot be bishops." This thought led to women being unable to be stake presidents, apostles, and the prophet, as well as several other positions in the church. Each of these callings require a certain office in the Priesthood. And because women do not have the priesthood, these roles in the church are closed off to them. This was my lightening bolt. This was the simple answer that firmly declared, as it stands, women are not equal to men in the Mormon church. 

I think I've always thought of ordination to the priesthood more in a "Now I can give priesthood blessings" kind of way. I'd be able to stand in the circle of my children's baby blessings. I've always thought of these things as formalities, so I didn't mind not being able to do them because I've always felt I have the same ability to call on the power of God, despite not holding a Priesthood badge. I didn't mind letting the men in my life handle those special occasions. I still don't, but there's something heart-wrenching when I think of the women I would love to sustain in callings they currently cannot hold. 

I've spent time wondering what ordaining women to the priesthood would look like in the LDS church. What would a bishopric with women and men be like? Temple and mission presidents who are women. A quorum of the twelve apostles with men and women. "Authority" being equally distributed. I like the peace I feel when I imagine these things. This Sunday I was in Seminole, OK attending a service at the Community of Christ. At the end of the service, the congregation was asked to stay while one of its members was administered to. This is what is looked like - 
Her mother is on the left, her sister on the right, and her husband is kneeling by her side.

Being present for this was a blessing in the midst of what I've been pondering. The feeling in the room was gentle and sweet. Ordaining women to the Priesthood created a huge divide in Community of Christ. I hope that, if women are ordained, the Mormon church can learn a lesson from CofC's transition. That we can find ourselves at a point of being understanding and loving and gentle with one another. That kindness and gentleness must be present currently, a tenderness towards all of our sisters' [and brothers'] feelings, even if it's not easy, so that we can love one another through any change that might occur.


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