I’m not Catholic, but you’d think I was based on the way I jog.

by vanessagobes

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I lace up my running shoes and open the front door, greeted by 39 degrees and spitting rain. It’s Saturday morning and I’m excited to hit the sidewalks after several weeks of snow and super cold temps. I took up jogging a few months ago — a real shock to the system as this meditation-loving lady is notoriously sedentary. I had come to realize that at age 41, the only way to keep my waistline from feeling like a jelly doughnut was through cardio. And guess what? I like it. Not because of the cramps or the sweat or the having to wash and blow dry my hair after — I like where I go, physically and mentally.

My destination is always the same: Mother Mary. There’s a statue of her tucked away in a small garden at St. Mary’s Catholic church, a mile from my house. Sometimes I take a creative route and sometimes I beeline for her. Today I choose a direct shot because of the rain.

Per usual, I find a kick in my pace as I near her. I leap over snowbank remains and charge past side streets. I can feel Mary’s energy. It’s like we both know a reunion’s coming and we’re giddy to experience each other.

I greet Mary with silence, then begin our private ritual, mother to mother. After a short time together, it’s time for me to get home, but I’m all jacked up on Love and decide to take the long, hilly way.

The hills are hard for me. My mind starts wandering, thinking about discomfort. I start silently chanting, Left. Left. Left-right-left, understanding for the first time that our military forces use a matra-based mindfulness technique to keep soldiers present, in the moment. I play with other chants, Fat. Fat. Fat-burn-fat, and then decide the military version is much more effective. The chant keeps me focused, but I’m jogging uphill at a good clip and I’m starting to lose confidence.

I consider ducking down a side street to avoid the climb. I know Prince Street is ahead — and it’s downhill. Whenever I pass Prince I think, Prince of Peace, so I decide I’ll take refuge on my boyfriend Jesus’s street in a few blocks.

I’m thinking about Jesus, the Prince of Peace. How good he’s been to me over the years, how supportive he’s been of my relationships with Buddha and Krishna and Ben & Jerry. As I arrive at Prince Street, a voice directs, Don’t use me as an exit strategy. Use me as your inspiration to keep going! (It’s so amazing, the things you can hear when you’re listening.) I find another kick in my pace and pass Prince. A block later, the road flattens out.

I pad past a few more side streets and reach the final turn toward home. Slowing down, tears suddenly roll down my cheeks. A big, bright love is swelling my my chest and I feel both Mary and Jesus with my full presence. Those words Exit Strategy are building in my mind. I’m sorting through messages about Salvation and Faith. The messages are beautiful, simultaneously simple and complicated. They’re about not hiding behind heaven, not waiting until then end to reunite with The One, but instead experiencing the Kingdom in ordinary moments, trusting that Salvation is not later, but NOW. I’m wiping tears away as a man walks past me with his dog. I smile and try to maintain focus on the loving, mighty voice in my head. Messages keep streaming — fast. Let me hold onto your words, so I can write them down, I beg in a whisper.

I start running again, then break into a sprint. I need to get home and write before the words dissipate, like wispy clouds on a sunny day. I burst through the front door, toe-heel my sneakers into the corner, abandon my hat and gloves on the kitchen floor, whip out my laptop, and write. But the messages are gone. They only existed for me on the wet road home, in that moment. In this moment, there is something else. There is gratitude.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa