The Night Will Soon Be Ending

12 Dec

Over the past few years, Advent has crept its way past Lent, then Easter, as my favorite season of the church year. I still love the penitence and sorrow of Lent and the joy and celebration of Easter. But Advent captures my heart in a way that other seasons simply don’t. Advent is about patience and waiting and preparation, and while Lent touches on those, it’s the theme of hope around which Advent is situated that speaks to me so deeply.

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is often a joyful one, with family gatherings and holiday parties and wrapping up carefully selected gifts for loved ones. But for some, it’s the opposite of joyful. For the ones who have no family or approach such gatherings with a sense of dread. For those who sit at home under the weight of depression and anxiety, unable to eat, drink, and be merry with friends. For those who have lost the recipients of past gift-giving efforts or who have to choose between putting food on the table and purchasing presents. For those who flock to brightly decorated malls or file into elementary schools and instantly become victims of senseless violence.

Advent provides a safe space for these people, and plenty of others, who simply do not resonate with the oft-manufactured “joy of the holiday season.” The season of Advent reminds us that a dark and hurting world was lit by a Savior. Not a light-wrapped tree or a shiny new gadget, but the one who still loves us and redeems us today and every day. And the hope of Advent isn’t reserved for the four weeks leading up to December 25th. It is for every “dark night of the soul,” when we wait to feel the peace and joy that only our God can deliver.

This week, in chapel, I was particularly struck by a hymn we sang and its accompanying story. Below is the story of Jochen Klepper, and then the text of his hymn. My prayer is that it might become a narrative of hope for those who struggle during this season, and that we all might be reminded of what we truly wait for at this time of year.

This text was written in German by Jochen Klepper, and translated into English by Herman G. Stuempfle. Jochen Klepper, German poet, hymnwriter and journalist was born March 22, 1903 and died December 11, 1942. The son of a Lutheran pastor with Moravian roots, Klepper began a course of theological study at the University of Breslau which he discontinued to work as a radio journalist. By the late 1930s, Klepper had difficulty sustaining work as a journalist because of his marriage to Joanna Stein, a Jewish widow with two daughters. In 1942, after attempts to acquire visas and leave Germany failed, and with deportation of the family to a Nazi death camp looking certain, Klepper, his wife, and one of their daughters ended their lives. Klepper wrote in his diary that night, “Tonight we die together. Over us stands in the last moments the image of the blessed Christ who surrounds us. With this view we end our lives.”

The Night Will Soon Be Ending

(sung to the tune Haf Trones Lampa Färdig, also used for Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers)

The night will soon be ending; the dawn cannot be far.
Let songs of praise ascending now greet the Morning Star!
All you whom darkness frightens with guilt or grief or pain,
God’s radiant Star now brightens and bids you sing again.

The One whom angels tended comes near, a child, to serve;
thus God, the judge offended, bears all our sins deserve.
The guilty need not cower, for God has reconciled
through his redemptive power all those who trust this child.

The earth in sure rotation will soon bring morning bright,
so run where God’s salvation glows in a stable’s light.
As old as sin’s perversion is mercy’s vast design:
God brings a new creation — this child its seal and sign.

Yet nights will bring their sadness and rob our hearts of peace,
and sin in all its madness around us may increase.
But now one Star is beaming whose rays have pierced the night:
God comes for our redeeming from sin’s oppressive might.

God dwells with us in darkness and makes the night as day;
yet we resist the brightness and turn from God away.
But grace does not forsake us, however far we run.
God claim us still as children through Mary’s infant son.

Amen.

Days 12, 13, & 14.

14 Apr

So, I’ve been lax in blogging for a couple of reasons. There’s been a crisis going on in my extended family, so I’ve been pretty distracted. Then it was Holy Week, which is the busiest time of year for anyone in the church. And my wireless router has been on the fritz, and I was too distracted and busy to find my ethernet cord until recently. Hence, no blogs.

Jogging has been going slightly better. There have been a few times where I jogged for five minutes or so, which is a huge step up for me. But today’s workout wanted me to jog for eight minutes, and I almost died just at the thought of it. I did manage almost six minutes at one point, but that was about my limit. My big mistake in today’s workout was that that I didn’t get up early or workout this morning, but I waited until late afternoon, after I’d had a big lunch. And ice cream. Ugh, never again. I’m definitely a morning workout person.

There’s a little less than a month to the 5K, and I’m getting kind of nervous. I’ve decided that my main goal is to finish the race in under 50 minutes. Right now I’m at just about an hour, and I’m hoping that in the next three and a half weeks, I can shave some time off of that. But like I’ve said before, I’m not too worried about my time or where I place or any of that — I just want to finish!

Tomorrow, I think I’m going to get up early and head over to the high school track to work out. Tomorrow is supposed to be a five minute warm up, twenty minutes of jogging, then a five minute cool down. Twenty minutes of jogging. I might die, but at least I’ll do it outside!

Day 11.

28 Mar

Working out in Chicago is fabulous! Ginny and I went for a walk yesterday morning, and then this morning I did Week 4, Day 2 of the program, and everyone is really friendly, Hyde Park is a beautiful neighborhood, and the weather is actually really nice for being outside in the morning. Plus, I orchestrated both workouts around finishing at Starbucks — a venue that Gettysburg is desperately lacking.

I’ve decided to repeat Week 4 next week, primarily on the treadmill, but I really need to up my speeds. The GPS indicated that I traveled a much further distance today than any time I’ve been on a treadmill, and I walked for almost the entire workout. My “land” walking must be a good bit faster than my rate on the treadmill, so I need to up that. I think it might be just below where I’ve been jogging on the treadmill. So, on the days I make it to the gym when I’m not doing the C25K program, I think I’ll just hop on the treadmill and start at a slow pace, but get just a little faster every minute or two, until I’m at a more realistic pace.

At this point, I know I could walk a 5K, but it would probably take me an hour. Ideally, I’d like to finish in 45 minutes, which either means much faster walking (definitely possible) or alternating walking and jogging (most likely possible, but will require more work). I think I’ll have a better sense of all of this once I start jogging for longer periods of time on the workout plan.

Now it’s off to a morning of work with my colleagues, and after lunch, I’m free! Today I think I’m going to head to the science museum, because it’s right in this neighborhood (and they just opened a sweet new Mythbusters exhibit that sounds awesome), and then just take some time to relax. Probably at Starbucks. Tomorrow might include the art museum (thanks to an LSTC student who has a free ticket and guest pass!), Centennial Park (I’m definitely going to see the Bean), and an architecture tour on the river. Then Friday, I’ll probably leave relatively early in the day because I’d like to go see the ELCA churchwide offices — and coincidentally, all of the ELCA seminary presidents will be there, so maybe I’ll run into some familiar faces! Higgins Road isn’t far from O’Hare, so I’ll head over there a little after lunch and just have some downtime before heading to Pittsburgh. Good stuff!

Day 10.

26 Mar

This morning, I worked out at the YMCA near my parents’ house. It was okay — I’m not feeling stellar, or like it was my best workout, but I did it. It’s most likely because yesterday was a long day that included church, driving to Frederick, attending an ordination and commissioning, having dinner with Dana, and then driving from Frederick to Baltimore. It was a really wonderful day, and I’m so glad I was able to see good friends I haven’t seen in a while (and I’m especially glad I got to spend some time with Dana!), but it was exhausting. So I know now that I really need to get a good night’s sleep before I work out, or else the whole thing will feel sluggish.

In today’s plan, there were five-minute jogging segments, and I was pretty proud of how I pushed through them. On the second (of two), I slowed it back down to a brisk walk with about a minute and a half left in the segment, but other than that, I was able to keep up. Again, at a pace that I think is much slower than where I want to be, but at this point, I think I need to focus on endurance rather than speed. After I know that I can do those 3.1 miles at a steady pace, without getting exhausted and wanting to rest, then I can start working on how fast I can go. As I said, I don’t have the highest of expectations regarding being able to jog the Pickle Chase, but I’m hoping I can do so for The Color Run.

Alright, I’m off to finish getting ready and then I’m heading to Chicago! After a few days of work and a few days of just being kind of touristy in the city, I’ll be off to Pittsburgh for my best friend’s bridal shower on Sunday. It should be a fun week!

Day 9.

24 Mar

Ay yi yi. I’m really wishing that my jogging was more consistent, and that I was able to jog faster. I’m nervous about the coming weeks that are bringing longer periods of jogging. I just finished Week 3, and at the end of Week 5, I’m supposed to jog for 20 minutes. At this point, I’m thinking that’s going to be impossible. I have six weeks of the program left to go, and seven weeks until the 5K — so I’m thinking about starting Week 4 next week (which I’ll be doing almost entirely outside, since I’m out of town next week), then repeating it the week after, doing the same workout but trying to up the pace on my jogging. Then maybe I’ll be ready for jogging 20 minutes.

Despite some of the frustrations I have, I’m feeling really good about my progress. I know that a few weeks ago, there’s no way I would have been able to jog for three minutes, even at the slow pace I’m going now. Luckily, I’m not concerned with how long it will take me to complete the 5K in May (though I’d like to not be the last person to cross the finish line…), so it’s really about consistency and endurance.

Looking ahead to next week, I’ll most likely work out at the fancy schmancy YMCA in Perry Hall on Monday, then Wednesday and Friday I’ll be in Chicago. On Wednesday, I’ll probably jog around Hyde Park in the morning, or after our meetings are over. Friday, I’m thinking I’ll jog along Lake Michigan, where I’m sure I’ll be lapped by actual runners, but you can’t beat the view. I’m pretty excited to work out in a new place, so we’ll see how that goes!

Day 8.

22 Mar

It’ll be a short post today — I have friends coming over tonight and need to take care of some last-minute tidying up. Today’s workout was awesome. Susie was there today, and Kelly came along too! Kelly is one of the friends (along with Dana and Lindsay) who really inspired this whole running thing for me. Kelly is a seminarian, a wife, and a mother of two sweet little girls, so she is clearly pressed for time — but she always makes time to run. She ran the Disney half marathon this year, and seeing how energized she was to train for it, and then how empowered she was afterward has served as motivation for continuing along this path. So I wasn’t even jealous when she totally smoked me on distance in the same amount of time — because she’s earned it.

On Tuesday, when I got home, I noticed that my left shoe was laced differently than my right shoe. After the loops used to lace them up, there are three holes on each side, and the left shoe was laced through the first hole (low on my ankle) while the right shoe was laced through the second (which is significantly higher than you’d think on my ankle). I changed up the laces on the left to match the right, and voilà! No pain in my left foot today! I think the laces being higher up on my ankle gives more support, which I’d guess is a major cause of the pain. Small victories!

Another small victory? Tuesday’s workout and today’s had the same plan. Tuesday, I went 1.24 miles, today I went 1.30. Not much more, and certainly not overwhelmingly impressive for 28 minutes, but like I said: small victories. I’ll take what I can get!

Days 6 & 7.

20 Mar

This weekend, I was back at my parents’ house and managed to get in two great workouts. On Friday, I went to the YMCA in Perry Hall for a little bit of cardio and some strength-building. The YMCA in Perry Hall (and I’m sure elsewhere, but I only know about this one) has an “Away Plan,” where members of other Ys can get 14 visits to their facility a year, for free. Pretty sweet deal! Especially since this Y is really new and has some fantastic equipment. Every cardio machine (treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, and I think even the stepper) has its own individual TV with a headphone jack. I’m pretty sure if the Y up here had that, I’d never leave. All of the “regular” members of the Y also get a code to put into all of the strength machines, and it keeps track of how much they’ve lifted over time. I definitely had some gym envy while I was there.

So, I did about 20 minutes on the elliptical, then spent about 25 minutes doing various strength exercises, mostly focusing on my legs. They had one machine that has you do standing calf raises, but while lifting some weight using your shoulder. I did three sets of 10 reps on that one, and I’m only just now not having immense calf tightness all the time! It was serious business.

On Saturday, it was gorgeous out, so my mom and I packed up Gracie, our family’s miniature dachshund, in the car and drove the very short distance to the regional park. There was a lacrosse tournament going on, so there were lots of people around, including other joggers on the trail around the park. Kind of your quintessential Saturday morning at the park. We walked together, and I would jog ahead during the jogging portion (Saturday was day six of C25K, since Friday was that “fourth workout” I’m adding in), then mom and Gracie would catch up. I’m still not able to jog as steadily, or for the full jogging portion, when I’m outside as opposed to on the treadmill. I know that eventually this will have to change, since you don’t come across many 5ks that happen on treadmills, but I’m still in the early stages of building up my endurance and learning how to keep a steady pace. We walked around the track almost two full times, which should have been about two miles (according to the markings on the track), but my GPS said it was about a mile and a half.

Probably my favorite part of the workout was when I turned around after jogging and saw my mom carrying Gracie. I mean, if my legs were the length of golf pencils, I’d probably give up after about a mile and a quarter too, but it was hilarious.

Then today, it was back to the early morning routine at the YWCA with Susie. Today’s workout started to kick up the expectations a bit, with two segments of jogging that lasted three minutes each. Before starting C25K, I can’t remember the last time I jogged for any length of time, much less three straight minutes, and it showed in the workout. For the first portion, I jogged the whole three minutes. For the second, I went back to a brisk walk after about two minutes. I know I just need to keep working up to it, but I want more “instant” results. This is another place where I know I tend to give up — when I’m not getting the results I think I should. I usually just figure that it must be hopeless to even try, so why bother? That’s what makes this time different, and why I think I’m more excited about going to the gym than I ever really have been before.

Looking ahead, the Pickle Chase is in less than two months! I’m definitely getting nervous about doing a whole 5k outdoors, but as I get more confident in my consistency during workouts, I’ll start to move outside again. And then over the weekend, at a fundraiser at my home congregation, one of the high schoolers and I were talking about a 5k where they throw colored powder on you at every kilometer, so you’re covered in five different colors when you finish. I looked it up, and it’s called The Color Run, and it turns out that my friend Kelly (one of my inspirations to start training for a 5k) has been wanting to do one for a while now! There’s a run in DC on September 22nd, and there seems to be a couple of people here who want to do it (plus one, maybe two of my sweet cousins!), so it looks like we’re going to try and get a team together! I’m also excited about that one because it gives me an additional four months after my first 5k to train and improve my endurance and my time. I think my ultimate goal is to be able to jog/run an entire 5k — I’m not naive enough to think that this will be the case with the Pickle Chase! But maybe for The Color Run…