Thursday, December 31, 2015

What I learned in 2015

   As the year comes to a close today, instead of my monthly blog of what I learned this month, I want to share what I learned this year. That's no small task, considering this year has taught me more lessons than I ever would have imagined. This year, I let go of some friends and welcomed some new ones. Amanda and Sharon have become beautiful jewels to me in the minefield of life. I have gone to new places, and experienced new atmospheres and adventures. But if I had to sum of the year in one word, that word would be "Growth". I have experienced phenomenal growth this year. Maybe not everyone around me can see it, but I know it transpired, and that is what counts the most. Let me share how this has unfolded for me this year, and what the biggest lessons of the year were for me.

   I started out the  year claiming my word for the year to be "different." ( You can read what I wrote here in January about the word.) I had no idea what that would entail, but I could not get over the word at the beginning of the year. I wanted to make better decisions, which would lead to me being different. I wanted to learn and grow, stepping out of my box, my comfort zone, in uncomfortable ways. I wanted to embrace being different, because what makes a person different is what makes a person beautiful. I wanted to take those aspects of being different to make a difference. I thought about the word all year long, but I have dwelt on it the last few days, pondering if i really applied that word to my life.

   Whether or not those around me would agree, I believe I embraced becoming different this year. I'm still me, but I found deeper roots this year, in essence producing growth and becoming different. Without it intentionally becoming so, the phrase "Let Go" became a huge part of my year, and in letting go, I believe I became different. I didn't put those two together until I began reflecting on the 2015 year. Letting go isn't quitting. Letting go, for me, became Letting God. and when I "let God", He began reshaping my life, from the inside out, making me different. Letting go and becoming different is not an easy journey. I have shed many tears over lost friendships. I wrestled with God over the fact that I am such a goal setter, and He was teaching me to be content in some ways I never had. In letting go of some career goals, at least for now, my heart took on a different shape. I have grieved losses as I have let go of some things and people. However, in letting go, I also have found new freedom. Freedom to be me, and not apologize for it. Freedom to share my heart more openly. Freedom to love deeper. Freedom to be who God has designed me to be, not who or what others have always been wanting or asking me to be.

   I stepped out of my comfort zone and began to pursue a mission trip to Colombia. That trip, which is only 5 weeks away now, began transforming me and making me different from the get-go. I grew in my faith, watching God's leading and provision. And I am stepping out of my comfort zone to use gifts that have sat on the shelf for a while now. Fear is not always a bad emotion; fear is quite humbling and growth-provoking in the right scenarios.

   I have read a few books this year that have absolutely changed my perspective on a few aspects of my life, and in essence, have helped me grow and become different. Sight Shift,  which helped me recognize my struggle with self-control. Unbroken, which is an incredible true story about faith and forgiveness and perseverance. Unbroken, the story of Louis Zamerini, was what initially prompted my journey of letting go, only I had no idea what was in store with those words. Boundaries is a book I should have read years ago. Then again, all things come at the appropriate time. From this book, I learned much about my people-pleasing ways and I learned the ever important value of saying No, which is a word I have not adequately executed over the years.

   Over the course of the last year, I processed events and words deeply. I always do this, but this year's journey was different. Some days I privately grieved in my heart. Some days the anxiety plagued me. However, this time I wasn't listening to the voices of others telling me about me; I was listening to what God tells me about me. And as I walked this journey quietly, and often times alone, I found confidence I have been lacking for many years. I found the truths that have often been whispered about me, but I never believed. So, when asked what I learned in 2015, I learned how to be a better me. I Learned what being different means for Rachael. I learned to let go and let God. I said goodbye to some old friends, but welcomed some new. I learned how to say No. I have not perfected these new differences by any means, but I have made significant progress, and I cannot wait to see what 2016 will bring. One day at a time!




Friday, December 18, 2015

And He will be called...

Isaiah 9:6 "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called
 Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." 

I have heard those verses read on hundreds of occassions through my lifetime, and yet this year, the verse stands out in a new way. I love that about Scripture. You can read a passage countless times, almost to a point of being mundane, but even still, you can capture new meanings all the time.
 It's how God speaks to us.
His Word.

I have thought on these verses more this year than I have previous years, though, because each of those names given to our Savior hold true for who He is, but in different seasons of life, we embrace specific names more strongly than others.
  I find beauty in all of them, but in this season of life, the words Prince of Peace are ringing the truest for me this Christmas season.

 I started out December saying I was going to slow down. I wanted to purposefully be still. But I have not succeeded in that. And some days, it's not that my schedule is jam packed; it's more that my mind is full. I can't turn off the thoughts. You can call it the writer in me, or the emotional woman that I am, but whatever the case, my mind is often exhausted at the end of the day from all the different thoughts it's processing.
  Some are silly, others serious.
 Some are tough scenarios, others are dumb situations.
   Sometimes it's the battle of the mind, fighting off all the old negative thoughts and replacing them with the positive truthful ones, which takes a lot of energy for me.
  2015 has been an amazing year for me, one which I am excited to share more about over the next few days/weeks. But, I still battle anxiety.
 It is part of me, part of my story.
  Anxiety to me is like what diabetes is to a diabetic.
 It is an every day journey, some days high, some days low, but medication helps regulate it, and it's part of my story.
 A diabetic can help me understand what is needed for their body to function properly.
 I can help others understand what anxiety is, and what I need to be healthy.

Agree or disagree with me; anxiety often times is a central debate among the world.
                        But it's part of my story, and I am OK with that.

The point is, I have anxiety, so when the verse says he will be called... Prince of Peace... I embrace those words, because peace is what my mind most often needs.

Peace is defined as freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility. Which is what I have been longing for, but see how the anxiety interrupts that?

Prince is defined as a male ruler.

Put that together: Jesus is the male ruler of quiet, tranquility and freedom from disturbance.

Oh, how my soul longs for that and I am so glad that God sent His Son so many years ago on Christmas day to be that for me! I just have to learn to sit still long enough to let that sink in to my heart and mind.

  So, the verse takes on new meaning for me this year as I dwell on it.
What does your soul long for today? Is it the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father? Or are you like me and need the Prince of Peace?

 He is all of those and more.... we just have to sit still and let Him show His love in those ways.
                                                            One day at a time.




Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Adopted

Adoption is beautiful.
 I have known friends who have adopted children, and their stories have always touched me.
But last week, the beauty of adoption became very real in our family.
 Last week, my sister and her husband adopted William.

 William had been in foster care for several years, and about 8 months ago, my sister and her husband became his foster family. Fast forward.... and last week he became adopted and officially part of the family.

 William is a little spitfire, and I got along with him from the start. He is full of energy and a thousand questions. He always wants to play, and he loves his desserts. William's story touches me deeply. I have the hardest time wrapping my head around a mother (or a father) not wanting their child, and yet that is a very real, every day occurrence. The events and the things William endured the last many years are heartbreaking to me.
 And yet they haven't broken him.

 He laughs and is full of joy.
   He is inquisitive and curious, like the little monkey, Curious George.
He has a streak of independence that is fierce, but will carry him far in life.
   The hurts he has endured are more than many of us will ever face, and yet he has more love in his little heart than those of us who have known love forever.
 And now he is part of our family.

 I could not post pictures of William until now. And now that he is part of the family, I can proudly introduce him.  This little boy, and his story, have stolen a little piece of my heart.
  Adoption is beautiful.




  I do not have a story that resembles William's at all. I grew up in a very loving home. But I
am reminded through this event that we are chosen adopted children of God.
 We are broken, but God has chosen to take us in.
We are inquisitive- constantly questioning God and His reasons and His events; but God has chosen to answer every "why" with his continual presence and love.
  We try to be independent and choose our own way; and each and every time, God is waiting with open arms to accept us when we get back on the right path.
   In fact,  no matter how many times we walk away or choose our own path or question Him, He chooses us every time.
  We are undeserving, but that is the beauty of it all.... God displays grace and love every day. We don't have to do anything to earn His acceptance.
     We are adopted children of God.
Ephesians 1 says : Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

  Last week, William became part of our family through the court system. I love that little boy deeply already.
    Years ago, God adopted me as His daughter, and loved me with a fierce love like one I will never experience otherwise. 

 Adoption is beautiful. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Journey to Colombia

I have chosen to label all my posts about my upcoming trip, "Journey to Colombia" because, while the trip is essentially  a mere 8 days long, all these months leading up to it are a deeper journey in  my life. Some of it takes me back to my high school days, even, which is what I want to share today in regards to the unfolding of this upcoming February trip.
 So, If you are so willing to bear with me traveling through time, I want to give you a glimpse into my heart for why this journey is so meaningful, and how it struck me so strongly this weekend.

 I grew up in a church which was very missions oriented. Our church supported missionaries from all over the world. If you named a region, I probably could tell you the name of someone there whom we  prayed for and supported. Missions- sharing the love of Jesus- was a topic spoken often of in my Sunday School classes and my home as well. Mom had cards with missionaries pictures on them in her Bible and through the house, and we frequently would speak of their stories over the dinner table.
 My interest in missions was planted as a young girl. I had a great concept of what a missionary was, but mostly thought of them as people overseas sharing God's love.
 In high school, my heart for missions grew, while my love for the Spanish language also grew. I began to feel and think that maybe that was my life's calling. And while I had a very good grasp on the concept of missionaries, I still don't think I had an entire picture of their careers.  I went on "mission trips" in high school, ministering in areas around the United States, but I think I still believed that being a missionary meant going overseas. When my church youth group had the opportunity to go on a overseas missions trip, I had to sadly pass up the opportunity for various reasons.
 I still had a taste and a craving to do that work, but not the entire concept.

 As I graduated high school and went to a year of Bible college, my chosen school activity/ministry was to teach English to foreign students. As I had the opportunity to launch into that world, I began to see missions as an every day activity. Right in my backyard was an opportunity to minister to young people who came from a different culture and did not have the knowledge of Jesus. I didn't have to be preaching to minister to them; teaching them our language and being there for them was being a missionary to them.  Through simply loving on them, doors of opportunity opened to share why I, as a busy American, wanted to take the time to teach them our language.
 That summer I had the opportunity to travel overseas to El Salvador and Honduras and experience the "other country" aspect of missionary world. While I did absolutely enjoy that experience, I also had a better concept of missionary work.

 We are all missionaries. Whether it's overseas or in a school as a teacher. Whether we are a stay at home mom or work in a hospital. Whether we teach English to nationals or teach English overseas. If we have the love of the Lord in our lives, then we have the ability to share the message any where we go.

 Needless to say, I chose not to further pursue the overseas part of missionary work, but that piece and desire always lived in a part of my heart.

I got married and had children- a new form of missionary work. A long term one, for sure! But in the meantime, while I lived in Florida, I had great opportunities to teach my Honduran and Mexican neighbors English. I was amazed at the opportunities God always gave me.

 When we moved back to Ohio, those opportunities were different. Remembering that I was an every day missionary was difficult at times. Fast forward a few years...
 My friend Kristen went on her Colombia trip as I shared here. At that time, I was in a dark place, having lost mom and not very stable emotionally or spiritually. But God was preparing me, and I didn't even know it.

Which leads me to the current place of pursuing the mission to Colombia in February. The same one Kristen attended.

 Yesterday at my church, I was taken back to my high school remembrances of my love of missions, as I sat through what is called a commissioning service. For those who do not know what that is, it's when a person chooses to make their life's work be missions. And once they go through training to do so, and are preparing to leave the United States (or stay, depending on their chosen location) their home church will "commission" them, pray over them, and allow the entire church to be part of the sending off process.
 My church today doesn't have a lot of these, but growing up I frequently had the opportunity to see missionaries sent off.  But as I sat through this service yesterday and watched my friends, Bryce and Natasha, be commissioned for Togo, Africa, I was taken back to those high school memories.

 And the corner of my heart that still beats for missions.

  And the lessons learned of being a missionary in my own every day interactions.

   And to my current journey to Colombia.

If and when you have the love of the Lord and the knowledge of his saving grace in your heart, YOU are a missionary. I  am a missionary. Whether it's in my job, in my home with my husband and kids, talking with a neighbor, or.... preparing to go to Colombia for a week. There was a song we used to sing growing up, that I finally have a better understanding of now as an adult, and it came back to me recently. The words say:

Be a missionary every day; Tell the world that Jesus is the way. The Lord is soon returning, there is not time to lose. So... be a missionary... God's own emissary. Be a missionary today! Let's Go! 

 To see a little more about where I am going, feel free to visit Mission to Colombia on Facebook.




Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What I Learned in November

The calendar page turned to December yesterday. The last month of 2015. Time just keeps moving faster, doesn't it?
  While most people are hustling and bustling around, I am being purposeful in slowing down and savoring the moments. I should be more diligent in doing this all year, but... baby steps :). It feels good to say no a little more often to the extra events, and take in more family memory moments through this season.
 But as I reflect on the month of November, I am thankful for the lessons learned and the memories made.

1. Salt water offers more than we think.
   My friend sent me this quote, and I really found it profound and true, in the simplest terms.
"I know the cure for everything: Salt water... in one form or another. Sweat, tears, or the salt sea." - Karen Blixen.
   It was followed by saying... There's nothing that one or all of those can't fix.
Ponder that. It's not spiritual, but there is much truth found in that statement.

2. I DO like skinny jeans!
  A few years ago, when skinny jeans became popular, I tried them on and hated them because I didn't have the body fit for them. I swore I never would own a pair. But.... this month I decided I really wanted to wear my boots on top of my jeans, which would require skinny jeans. So.... I tried them on and lo and behold- I liked them! (Kudos to my husband, who bought them for me as a surprise!) In fact, they are becoming my favorite pair of jeans :)  You just have to find the right pair.

3. Lisa is my laughing buddy
  I absolutely love to laugh. And we laugh a lot. Sometimes over a silly memory we have created. Sometimes over a dumb statement. Sometimes over an inside joke.  We create silly abreviations only the 2 of us would understand. And we simply have fun together. Here, you will see photos of us being silly in Indianapolis. We spent more time finding silly stuff like this around the city than we did other things (besides work, that is). Best way to sight see!
 


4. I love campfires. This isn't news. Just a reminder.
 Thanksgiving this year was the most relaxing one we have had in years! We really enjoyed some serious down time as a family. And that included a "campfire", with a cup of coffee, of course!












5. Let Go continues...
  The more I think I have learned about letting go, the more I continue to see. Letting go is freeing, but it has painful lessons with it, too. I have a feeling now that the door is opened on this journey for me, it's going to stay open and I will continue learning how to let go and what to let go. I shared a little bit here if you missed it earlier this month.

6. Lindor Chocolates have become my favorite delicate chocolate treat.

7. I am Charlie Brown
  Peanuts have long been my favorite cartoon. My daughter and I went to see the new Peanuts movie, and boy, could I relate to Charlie Brown. Great movie, with a great message, honestly. And a reminder that it's not about what we can do or can't do, it's about character. Snoopy is my favorite, but I am for sure like Charlie Brown.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Being Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

 Today is a day that naturally brings most writers to speaking about things which revolve around gratitude, as it should. Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday. While I truly love Christmas and Easter for the meanings of each of those days,  I really love Thanksgiving the most  because it brings about words of thankfulness... a habit lost in our every day busy lives.
  Most of us are guilty of it. But, I will just try to speak from my own perspective here.

 I truly try to help others find the half full glass side of life.When they are down, I try to find the positives for them. I enjoy encouraging others and striving to see the best. But, when it comes to my own life, I am a deep thinker and evaluater. I feel every emotion to the most intense degree. When I love, I love with everything in me. When I hurt, it affects every part of me. When I am happy, it bubbles over onto others.When I am trying to muddle through a new circumstance, my quiet spirit will let you know I am deep in thought. The point is, for myself,  when it comes to my own life, while I try to help others find gratitude, I don't always practice it best in my own life.

 This week, my friend reminded me of all the many blessings I have, just by listing a very few of them for me, finishing the thought by saying "if you ask me, you have a pretty good life." I thought on it for a moment and realized that, while it's good to be real and talk about life's struggles, the blessings cannot get lost in the midst of those. So, (to piggy back off my one attempted theme of The Little Moments ) I want to make more effort to be grateful.

 Every Day.

Not just on Thanksgiving.

So, today I recommit myself to writing down all the little things that happen each day, so that I can better focus myself on life's blessings, and not life's challenges.

 Today is a reminder of how many wonderful things we do have. But, why not make that an every day habit? I certainly cannot eat every day like I do today, but I can dwell more on my  blessings.

 As I am preparing for my trip to Colombia, there are a hundred blessings folded into that. I am grateful for those who are my prayer warriors, walking the road of the trip with me just as much as if they were on it. I am thankful for those who have donated money to the cause. I am reminded just how many wonderful people do exist in my life and care very much about me. And... as I prepare to go to a tiny village of people who have next to nothing, I am realizing how much I take everything that I do have for granted.

 As I reflect on the last many months, I am thankful for my husband. We have waddled through some muddy days, but all the while, he is by my side. I am thankful for my kids. Teenagers now, they are both teaching me day in and day out lessons of patience and dedicated love. But both are healthy and smart and I am blessed to have them.

 I am grateful for my dad. He is amazing, and every day sets an example for me. He is strong and patient and loving and kind and extremely giving. He loves God with everything in Him and strives to follow Him all the time. He doesn't always understand or relate to my world, but he is always there for me.

 Throughout the last many months, I have made some new friends. Women I never would have imagined being part of my journey a year ago. I am so thankful for them.

 I have some very true friends that have stuck with me through the many years of knowing me.... and I could not continue to navigate the deep waters without the wisdom and support they provide for me, each in their own unique way.

 I am incredibly grateful for God.  Words can't sum it up, quite honestly, but none of the above blessings would exist without His grace and love. And I don't deserve it. But He lovingly extends it to me. Every Day .

 The list could really go on, couldn't it? Today is a day of Thanksgiving. Of family. Of lots of great food. But, a reminder to me that I need to be more grateful every day.

Psalm 106

Praise the Lord.[a]


Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Littlest Sacrifices Matter

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, "Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all, for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had."  Luke 21:1-4

 I am not a Bible scholar, so I hesitate at times to throw my interpretations out there. However, this passage has crossed my path enough times the last few weeks, that I have begun to dwell on it a bit more and ponder its meaning. I believe that it could be interpreted different ways, and maybe even at different times in life, stand out with different significance.

 But, I find it to hold value in 2 different aspects in relation to my life at this time.

 First of all,  as I am on a faith journey right now in my pursuit of going on the mission trip to Colombia,  this story crossed my mind a few times. No gift is too small. Anything that anyone has given towards my trip matters. I have had some say to me "I'm so sorry it's not more..."  And my response is, " Are you kidding me? It means more than anything to me just to have your support, so a financial gift on top of that is God's confirmation  and a huge blessing to me."

  I have watched God provide in amazing ways through this time, as I have vested hours in prayer towards this adventure.  But the gifts people give touch me every time. I think of this story of the widow who, to an unwise eye, may have thought "that's all she is giving??"  But God saw and knew what a sacrifice it was.  God saw her heart.  And it was recorded to teach all of us for years to come. I should never be surprised by God. When we seek Him with our whole heart, He provides. And yet, I am constantly amazed at the sacrifices I see many make, as they contribute towards my trip to Colombia. I want to go to be His hands and feet, to be used by Him. To use my passion for Spanish. To love on others. And, to be transformed myself.  But, I am finding every single person walking this trip with me, be it in prayer or in financial giving, is just as much His hands and feet. Each one of (you)  are like the widow.  Giving selflessly.... for His good. And their sacrifices touch me every time.

 There is a secondary way I have begun to look at this story. (Again, please note, I am no scholar here, so this is my interpretation and how God is working on me using this story, maybe not how any other person who has dedicatedly studied the passage would say it is meant.) 

  The widow has no name. She may not even have known her story would be recorded for everyone to know. If I had to guess, she probably didn't even know anyone was really watching her. She may have been embarrassed by what little she had to offer to put in that money giving, considering the rich who were around her. But she gave it all, and it mattered. 

 As much as the story is about money, I have begun to see it in other ways. I have many times said that what I am doing in life doesn't really matter. That I am just a nobody. That my role is not important. If we are honest, we probably all struggle with that on some level. But what God has begun showing me through this story is that anything we do for His glory and with the right intentions, matters. No action is too small.
  A written card. The hugs given.  The kind words said. Maybe just being there, and not saying anything at all. Doing tasks happily, no matter how small, with no desire for recognition. Praying for someone. Being a true friend. Making a meal. Giving someone a ride.
 The list could go on of  tasks that we often think nothing of, but just like God saw the widow give her all with her money, He sees what we do, too. Nothing goes unnoticed. Nothing has a lack of value.  Every little thing counts.

 So, when I think of this story, I am grateful for those who give sacrificially to my upcoming work in Colombia.  But I also am challenged to remember that what I am doing for His kingdom, even if I think it is nothing, makes a difference. The widow didn't have her name written in the Bible. But God knew who she was.  He knew the sacrifice she made to give.
 And He knows the same for you. and for me. And really, what He knows is what matters.

 Do not discount anything you do... whether it's a financial gift or an act of love. Every action matters.

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Race Recap

"To be a champion, I think you have to see the big picture. It's not about winning and losing; it's about every day hard work and about thriving on a challenge. It's about embracing the pain that you'll experience at the end of a race and not being afraid....." - Summer Sanders, former Olympian

 As I shared in my previous blog post, No Holding Back, I had my fall race this weekend. I haven't been so excited for a race in a long time. However, for multiple reasons, I had been anticipating this one for months. I had very little idea of all that I would learn/embrace along the way. But just as this race's title was Monumental Marathon, my experience was monumental. 

Thursday evening, my co worker and I enjoyed exploring some of the sites around the city and exploring the unique restaurants and sculptures downtown. When she and I are together, we enjoy being silly. 



















Friday was another day of the expo, doing what I love to do as part of my job, and carb loading for Saturday's race. 

 Then finally the day I had been training so hard for came around. 

While the morning started out chilly, the temperatures were actually perfect for a race. The sun was out, and it was about 41 degrees. It's not fun to wait around at the start line in those temperatures, but once you get going, it's ideal. I was focused and ready to go. My mantra of LET GO was written on my hands and ingrained into my head for running. I pushed my headphones in and geared up to cross the start line. 

 As we started off, there wasn't a cloud in the sky or a breeze in the air. PERFECT! I shed my throw away gloves by mile one and felt great. My pace was pretty on-target for a PR. Of course, it was only mile one! We passed by the Colts stadium and rounded some streets to pass through the heart of the city, by the monument that stands tall in the center of the square. (Sorry, no photos... while I really enjoy the scenery along the way of the race courses I do, I do not stop to take photos while I run!) 
 As the miles faded one by one, I was feeling good, but a little uncertain if I could maintain the good pace the entire way. I did not go out the gate too fast, as some do. I just knew for weeks now, that while I would be close, I would be pushing it the whole race. 
 Somewhere around mile 6, there was a fire in a house along the course, so the firetruck beeped its way through the street, moving all of us to the sidewalk until it passed, and then off to the left of the street where the fire was. At mile 7, the half and the full marathon split apart. That was the first time I slowed down for water. That was where I lost a tad bit of my momentum for a moment.  I found it again, but I know from past experiences that when I lose momentum, it slows down my adrenaline a little.
  But I pressed on. Around mile 9, a crazy driver tried to (ok, not tried to, but DID) pull out onto the course. I know this has happened in plenty of races, but it was a first experience for me.It shot my heart rate up a little because the car did this literally with only 2 runners ahead of me. I have no idea what that driver was thinking. One of the other runners ahead of me stopped and handled the situation, so I kept going. 
  Halfway through mile 9, I was surprised to hear a spectator yell "Go, Rachael!"  One of our lead volunteers/sector bosses was out there to watch his girlfriend run. His cheer gave me a little new push. 
 When I hit mile 10, I knew that if I did not maintain my pace, I was going to lose a new PR. I kept repeating to myself to Let Go . No Doubt. Keep going. Let Go. And while it helped, I will just share with you that when my watch hit 2:27, I was rounding the bend into the final stretch, and I knew I was pumping out all I had left. 
 I finished the race in 2:29:24. 
 I missed my PR by just a minute and a few seconds. 

 I cried a little. 

But I did not cry because I did not make the PR. While it is so true that I wanted that pretty badly, what rang more true in my heart is just how much I have gained along the way the last few months. 
 I gained new confidence.
   I gained new perspective.
     I gained new friendships.
       I gained a stronger faith. 

And all of those "gains" are worth far more than a new PR. I will have plenty more races to run to push for a PR. This race was meant as a learning journey. And that was my reason for shedding a few tears. I felt great. I let go. In running, yes. But I let go in so many other areas that, as I stated previously, this race was was a huge victory for me. I even learned another lesson of letting go during my finish. I had this time goal in my head... and I didn't quite make it. And sometimes I have to let go of not accomplishing a goal. To not beat myself up over it. Let go of that, because in essence, while I didn't meet the goal, it doesn't mean I failed by any means. If I met every goal I ever made, what would I ever learn?? 
   
To many, running a half marathon in 2:29 is super slow. For me, I pushed through some walls. And I improved very much over the last race I did. So if you ask me if I ended happy... the answer is YES. 
    
So, the Air Force Marathon half marathon course still holds my PR for now. Which is perfectly OK with me. The Monumental Marathon, while not my favorite race I have ever ran, holds my best training  journey. 

  Upon my arrival home, the family was happy to have me back and to celebrate my accomplishment. We enjoyed the post-race tradition of a Mexican meal. That started after my very first half marathon, and without the intentions of it becoming so, has become the now-traditional post race occurrence. We decided to try a new place, and if you live in Dayton, or are ever in the area, you have to try Taqueria Mixteca. It's traditional and delicious! Best post-race meal ever! 
 
 Needless to say, I had the best night's sleep I've had in months. And a happy heart. Because letting go does that. 
 It was no PR, but far more was gained..... 
   Who knows what the next leg of training will bring?


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

No Holding Back....

I'm not holding back any longer. I am going all out and I am letting go. I am weary of the roadblocks I allow to be in my way.

 Over the course of the last 4 months, I have been training for a fall race. One race. One day. Just a couple of hours long. One victory. Hundreds of hours invested in getting to this place.

I have been looking forward to this race for months. I have not written much about the training because 1. I am no expert, so who am I to really say how to train or even talk about my methods? 2. Many people don't really care to hear all about the runs (but I'm beginning to be over that and just write freely about it because, after all, this is my blog and it doesn't have to be read.) 3. (and mostly for this reason I haven't shared much) This training journey has been a very private one.

 It's been private not because I have been running alone (although there is that, for sure). But it's been private because this has been very much of a learning journey for me through this training.  And sometimes, there just aren't adequate words to express what the heart, mind, body, and soul are learning. As they connect to each other through a run, my running and my training become as much of a spiritual experience as it is a physical benefit to my body. To express those moments out loud can present a challenge. Some people think that's crazy.

 So I haven't talked about it.

I don't think that just because it's race week that I am done learning the lessons I have accumulated over the last few months. But I don't want to hold back any more. I want to share what I am learning. About myself. About God. About this journey we call life.
 And I don't want to hold back in my running any longer either. I want to push the limits. I want to go faster than I ever have. I want to let God carry me through the walls I constantly find in my path. The mental walls. Because the mental walls present more of a challenge than the physical ones. The "I can't " statements. The settling for good enough. This training journey has brought me to a new goal with my fall race.

 It scares me a little because I don't like failing. And a part of me feels like if I don't meet my time goal for the race then I will be failing. But, actually, this race is probably one of my greatest victories, no matter what my time outcome is; the finish time will just become a bonus. So, even if I don't meet my time standard I am setting up for myself, I haven't failed. Because along the last 4 months, I have gained some amazing new perspectives.
 Just like pushing the limits physically and the lungs hurt, sometimes these perspectives have pushed my emotional limits and my heart hurts.
 But not a hurt that is lasting. It's temporary. Because as I have recognized new things about myself, about others around me, and about how much God loves me through every aspect of my being, the hurt fades and victory replaces the pain.

 This training journey has come to mean so much more to me than just running a race. It's become one about embracing confidence. Letting go of old insecurities. It's become a time in life where I have said yes to new experiences (Colombia), said no to hindrances that can stand in the way (sinful habits). And it has become a time of no longer  holding back. I have been learning to really let go.
 Let go of words. Let go of habits. Let go of people. Let go of expectations.
  Which leaves me....
  Free to run better. Be stronger. Love deeper. Work harder. Trust God more.

 This leg of training has been amazing. Physically, yes. I have begun to push past a wall I never thought could be knocked down. But emotionally and spiritually even more so. Because through these many weeks, I have been learning to let go.
  So as I go into my race on Saturday, my mantra is... LET GO. and in essence, Let God.
Simple words. But full of depth for me. with every step, I am learning to let go. Figuratively and metaphorically.
  In my running, and in my life.
   Do both hurt? Sometimes, yes. But is the victory worth it? Absolutely.

 So, I can't wait to see what will happen in the race Saturday. I am going for a best time. But, as I said, I have already gained a victory through this event.

   I close by sharing this: During the beginning of my training, I read Unbroken, the story of Louis Zamperini. What an incredible story. What an incredible life that man lived. But his brother said to him " A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory."  That has stuck with me. But even more so, Louis said to himself upon recalling his brother say that as he entered his Olympic experience, "Let Go" . And he opened up and went for it.

 No holding Back. Let Go.
 One day at a time.


Friday, October 30, 2015

What I learned in October

The year is quickly slipping by, and each time I sit down to write my "what I learned this month" post, I feel like each month has gone quicker. Is that a sign of getting old?!?  
 October is almost gone, but this month has been full ! Who am I kidding when I say life will slow down?!? Not a chance. At least, maybe not for me. I guess I am learning I don't slow down too well....
 Here's what I learned in October.

1. Detroit, Michigan is not as bad of a place as what I have always heard.
    - I traveled to Detroit for work this month, and while I may not have been in the worst parts of the city, I found it to be beautiful. We managed to find time to walk the riverwalk area (Who knew that existed there??), walk through the GM building, take the people mover around the area, and eat in Greek Town. I personally thought the city was pretty. I can't say I would want to live there, but it was fun to see. PLUS... I have lived in OH nearly my whole life and never have been to Michigan, so it was a good new experience. 
Just a cool looking arch sculpture, which my coworker referred to as Star Gate? Must be something Star Trek I didn't fully understand but i just went with it. 


Above : The river walk, with Canada behind me
Left: A beautiful mural on the wall in the people mover area.... this picture does not do the mural justice.

Greek Town at Night. 





2. Detroit, Michigan happened to be a huge city for freedom of slaves.
  - While I knew much about the underground railroad, I never realized (or thought about) that Detroit was so close to Canada, which was a country that experienced emancipation of slaves far before America, and thus, served as a large hub for freedom of slaves/undergroud railroad. I took in some history while being in that city for 2 days. 
This wall/statue had a whole lot of history on it, where I learned much about Detroit's role in freeing slaves.

3. I still love to play in the leaves. 
   - While my kids have grown out of this (for now) I still love to rake, scoop and throw leaves around. Something about it is refreshing and freeing. Thank goodness Alexis enjoyed this activity with me as well. It feels so good to laugh.... over the simply joys of being outdoors. One is never too old to do fall activities. 
I don't even care how cheesy this photo is. I was having fun! 

4. I am sometimes afraid to write. 
  - This month, I did a lot of personal journaling. And while that isn't a bad thing to do, I realize that some of what I want to write is scary to put out there. Scary because it's exposing. Scary because as I write the thoughts I realize the reality of the process inside me. Scary because I do worry what others will say. Scary because once I put it out there, I have a new sense of obligation not only to embrace what I am sharing, but to live it out on a daily basis. And some of what I have been learning in my own life lately, while beautiful and transforming, is frightening. But... you may begin to see some of these thoughts formulating more over posts in the near future.

5. God always provides.
  - It's a mystery to me why I ever doubt Him. He provided what I needed to raise for my mission trip up to this point. I still have about a thousand to go, but I am confident He is going to continue to show Himself in new ways and provide for me to experience this awesome adventure. 

6. Blackberry Pie is delicious
   - Upon the request of my friend, I made blackberry pie this month. It came out wonderful! I'd never made it before, so I was uncertain about it, but I was more than satisfied. I really am enjoying being challenged in new areas of baking, and expressing that creative side of me. 

7. Let Go is my new mantra.... 
   I will wait to further elaborate on this in upcoming blogs. But October taught me about letting go, in just about every area of my life. 

   As October is whisked away, the year is rapidly coming to a close.... But the lessons keep on coming :) One day at a time! 

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Journey to Colombia

I tend to write about the big events going on in my life,  or what God is teaching me, and often times those 2 things coincide.
 The journey I am traveling which will lead me to my trip to Colombia in February is  large piece of my story right now. I can't promise that I will have a post about it each week, but this trip is far more than just one week in the month of February. And I want to share with you why.
 I have been asked many times "Why Colombia?"
So I want to share with you how this began.

 A few years ago one of my closest friends, Kristen Prince, decided to attend this mission trip to Colombia. For her, she was stepping way out of her comfort zone. I was ecstatic to watch her take that step forward. Kristen mentioned it to me that they could always use Spanish speaking team members, but at that time in my life, I wasn't ready. Not because I didn't have a heart to do such trips, but more so because I was buried deep in a hole of grief after losing my mom to cancer and trying to pick up some pieces that had quietly and privately fallen apart. So I declined.

 Kristen's experience was so amazing on her trip to Colombia, she proceeded to go again. Her husband joined her. I was asked again, but still not in the right place.

 The third year Kristen went, my heart was drawn more towards what she was doing, but it didn't work well with my career at that time. So I once again declined.

 But you see, God was working on me each and every year. The more stories I heard about what Kristen's team was doing there, the more my interest was growing. The more pictures I saw, the more my heart was getting drawn towards the country of Colombia. Kristen moved away, but we have stayed quite close. After she went on the trip last February, I couldn't get the idea out of my head.

 I have always had a heart to do work overseas. I once thought it was my calling in life. But as God redirected, that seed of desire to make a difference and use my Spanish speaking skills to make a difference for His kingdom has always held a quiet backseat. And over the course of the last 3 years, as Kristen endeavored into some unknown adventures, God was working on me, preparing me to take that same trip. When she returned from her trip in 2015, I began praying. It would begin with my family being on board.
 The next step would be taking the time off from work.
   The next step would be my church's help/involvement, since I am attending with a group new to them.
    And then the next, and one of the largest steps, would be raising enough money to go. But I knew that if God paved the way and cleared all the previous paths, that the money would come. He would see my way into this trip.
 And here I am.
 Ironically enough, Kristen is not attending this year, but her support is tremendous.

And that is why I chose Colombia. Or maybe Colombia has chosen me. God has been preparing me for this for many years, only that just recently dawned on me. Hence I share that this journey to Colombia is so much more than just one week in February. Little did I know this began years ago.
 And if this began that long ago, I cannot wait to see what will unfold in the weeks to come.
Already, I have watched God provide in amazing ways funding needed by the end of October. And as I continue to pray through and grow in my faith for what still needs to come in, He is doing a work in me that constantly catches me off guard and amazes me. And those of you praying with and for me, or those of you who have graciously given or even those of you who are simply a part of listening to me talk about this endlessly right now.. you are just as much part of the journey with me.

 And you never know what might be transpiring in your life now that seems meaningless but will one day become a story like mine.

 I cannot wait to see what will continue to unfold. One day at a time in my journey to Colombia.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Little Moments

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."  Melody Beattie


This week had some amazing highs and the reality of a few life "lows" as well. But I am striving to every day focus on the positive!  When I am grateful, the little moments are highlighted in my day, not the negative ones.
 I had forgotten how much I enjoyed recalling these each week, to help refocus my heart and soul onto the beautiful occurrences each week.

  1. Brilliant fall colors at the height of the season, along with a few rarer warm days this week.
2. I have reached my half-way amount of money needed raised for my Colombia trip!!! Only God could have done this and it has been amazing to watch it unfold. I can't wait to see what more He will do!
   3. My passport came in this week :) One more step closer to my trip as well!
4. Kohls cash and coupons! Between those 2 things, I got a new purse I needed (because the old one was falling apart, and yes, ladies, believe it or not, I only own one purse at a time!).  I saved 80% and was able to get a purse I actually like for incredibly cheap!
    5. Blackberry Pie. I baked a new kind of dessert this week. I really enjoy trying my hand at new desserts....and at the request of one person, I made this pie and it came out delicious! I love when that happens!
        6. After a night of only 2 hours of sleep and total exhaustion, I set out on a 4 mile run (kind of because I had to for training) But this run ended up being the most liberating run I've had in a while and I kicked an awesome pace. I ended feeling amazing.
  7.  A friendly letter in the mail :) Not many write physical letters anymore, so when I get one in the mail,  I read it over and over and it makes my week!
       8. Shutterfly. I know it's been around forever, but I am new to it, and I really like it!
9. Watching cheesy movies with my kids. I'll never tire of that.
     10. Getting invited to and attending a charity luncheon in the community.  I really enjoy meeting new people and learning about great causes. Community involvement is important to me, even if I don't have an abundance of time to offer.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Fall Training Journey

When it comes to my training and my running these days, I have been more on the quiet side. In part, I think people can tire of my talking about running. But in part, the training journey I have been traveling the last few months has been so personal, it's one that has needed some privacy in order to unfold.
 But as I approach race day in just a few weeks, the lessons I have been gaining through these few months are so powerful, they are pushing through me to be shared. Thus, in the next few weeks, as I lead up to my fall race, I want to try to share a bit of the lessons I have been learning through this particular leg of training.

  When I set out back in July towards this fall race, I had no idea what the road ahead would look like for me. Now, glancing behind me, I believe this upcoming race and the training journey the last few months have been one of my strongest ones yet. In reality, while race day is always a fun, exciting and wonderful experience, and what I wait months for to come around, the piece that matters is actually all the months leading up to that day. A finish wouldn't be possible without all the exhausting days between. A victory is much sweeter when pain has been part of the battle.

 Much like the beautiful fall leaves that are quickly beginning to grace the ground these days,  I could compare these months to a fall season. Fall doesn't sweep in and take our breaths away with its beauty in one day. Fall is a season which is somewhat gradual. The leaves begin changing little by little, and each tree in its own time, not every tree at once. As the leaves begin to change their color into a beautiful shining brilliance,  they begin to shed off the trees day by day.

 As I have been getting up in the early hours and lacing up my shoes and heading out the door, my runs have become a bit more purposeful. When I started training back in July, I had no goal. I just ran because I wanted to, because I enjoyed it. Little did I know, God had this leg of my journey planned as a very personal journey of personal growth.
 The more I ran, the more the goal transformed. The more the goal transformed, the more He began transforming me in the process. The goals placed in my heart and mind during this leg of training did not just show up one day. Much like the fall season, it's become a gradual idea transforming into its own process. And much like the fall season, as the time of the weeks of training have unfolded, my layers, like the leaves on the trees, have begun to shed little by little.
 
 If I were to spread my arms out and "pretend" to be a tree,  you could say that through these weeks of training, the layers of.... fear... anxiety...hurts....insecurity...the need to please....comparisons to others... have begun to fall off me.
  That does not mean I have conquered these negativities by any means. But the process has begun of shedding these ugly habits. With each step I have run, the goal has grown stronger, the purpose in my heart has become greater.
  This leg of training has become more about God teaching me to let go than it is about the run itself.
 And some days I struggle to get up at 4 to go out for my run, but as I purposefully make the choice to do so, I find new victory in each run.
   In the fall season, just as you can't see what's happening inside the tree to transform its glorious beauty, I can't always understand what God is doing inside me. But running helps me understand Him better.  I am learning to trust Him stronger. To let go a little more each day. To run better, to be a better me.
  As I approach race day, the time goal I have in my mind and heart is one which is a challenge for me. But  nonetheless, the one I can't escape. So, I am pushing towards it. I am not certain I can achieve it, but regardless, the process it has brought on in me is far more accomplishing than what any clock could ever read at the end of a race. I likely won't share about the time goal until after the race because this journey is so close to my heart, it's not ready to be spilled out all the way just yet.

 But as fall proceeds and the brilliance of colors are bursting on every tree, so I believe He is doing a brilliant work in me as well. And just as those brilliant leaves shed (in order to eventually grow and become a new growth), so I believe my layers are shedding so I can grow stronger and better as well.

 One run at a time. One day at a time.

   It's not about the race. It's about the journey along the way. And you can't finish a race until you have adequately walked the journey.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Little Moments

It's time to get back to the attitude of gratitude.
 I used to be very good at keeping up with notating all my "little moments" that added up to meaningful memories or highlights for me, but then life takes off and I lose sight of them.
 So, I'm striving (starting today) to get back to tracking all of those a little better.
  An attitude of gratitude makes the world of difference. Here are a few little moments this week... ways I saw God's love show up, or moments that made me smile, or times that would seem meaningless to one person but add up to much for me.

 1. A text from a friend who just seems to always know when I need to be asked if I'm OK and remind me of my confidence on days I struggle with it.
2. My friend Sharon asking if she can share my Colombia fundraising support letter with some others she knows. To me, it doesn't matter if those unknown to me donate to my cause or not. What matters to me is the prayer support, and the support that Sharon showed in reaching out to share my adventure with others.
   3. New friendships that come from meeting in some pretty crazy but cool ways - you guys know who you are! I am thankful for these new friends in my life. And the experiences we are sharing, even if miles apart.
     4. Traveling to a new city.
 5.  Lunch times and silly stories only best friends can tell.
   6. Hugs.
 7. Coffee. These crisp fall days are ones which I am grateful for a warm cup of coffee! And often times the camaraderie that comes with it.
   8. Do you believe in angels on earth? Like a person who just shows up out of nowhere that can offer the help needed?  I do. I experienced that this week. If the man in the construction hat had not come along when he did (seemingly out of nowhere, mind you) my heart may have leapt out of my chest ! But God sent this man along to so kindly help me out of a bind. I prayed. God sent. That's the only explanation to it. It did take a few minutes for the heart to settle down after that!
   9. The smell of fall. Crisp leaves, pumpkin, apple cider... all of that.
10. Hiking! I had Columbus Day off and spent a good portion of my day alone on the trails. So peaceful and relaxing.
   11... Remembering to be grateful. When a person tells you all about the bad things happening to them and they can smile about it all and be OK, it puts life back into perspective for me. An attitude of gratitude makes a difference.
 

   

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Trust Fall

When I was growing up, I went to this awesome church camp every summer. One of the fun activities we did there was called a Trust Fall. This was out on the woodsy obstacle course. Generally, we were out there as a cabin group (probably 12-14 girls my age) and a second cabin group. So, about 24 of us, roughly. You may be familiar with what a trust fall is, but in case not, let me explain.
  Each girl took turns climbing up onto this beam-like log, which was a bit of a hoist to get up onto. Once on it, you were asked to turn your back to the group, and as they assembled a line, you were expected to just fall backwards, and they would catch you.
 Sounds easy, right? Think again. These were girls we'd all just met, so it was hard to know, "Will they really catch me?"  The scenarios quickly play through the mind as to what could happen or not happen.
 Many girls got up on it, only to get down out of fear.
 It was scary, I admit. But when the girls' arms caught me, the feeling was exhilarating and (as odd as this sounds) friendships were built stronger.

 Trust. I had to trust they would catch me.
 Trust is a short word, full of more worth than any of us give it credit.
It takes time to build trust.
  It takes vulnerability to build trust.
    It takes letting go of fear and inhibition to give trust away.
If trust is broken, much time and effort go into repairing that damaged bridge.
  And if it is hard to trust people, whom we see every day and interact with all the time, how much harder is it at times to trust God, who we don't really see in a physical sense?

 If you would ask me, "Do you trust God?", I would readily answer you, "Yes, of course!"
But when opportunities are available for me to prove to others and to Him that I fully trust His words, His truth, His promises, I must step back and honestly answer that I struggle with trusting Him sometimes.
 I don't know why. He has proven time and again He is faithful.
  Growing up, I watched Him provide for my family time and again. As an adult, I have seen Him do the same, from a different perspective.
  Life is a faith journey all the time, but we sometimes have stronger opportunities to exercise our trust in God more than others. Right now, I am being challenged in this area.
  I have the exciting and rare opportunity to take a mission trip in February to the country of Colombia. I have been praying about this for about a year. I have always had a heart for ministering to others and a strong tie to the Latin world. While my Spanish may be a bit rusty, I truly enjoy speaking their language. Years ago, I traveled to El Salvador and Honduras for a 6 week time frame. While at that time, I decided that was not my life path, the desire to do such trips has remained in my heart. I am truly excited for this upcoming opportunity to once again travel to a Latin America Country. We will be doing construction and ministering to the adults and children in the small town of Brisas del Mar.


 I am not afraid of traveling overseas or even of going on a trip with no one I know prior to this trip. (well, really know, that is. I have had the chance to meet them at a team meeting.) Truthfully,  I am  worried about raising the money to go.
 I shouldn't be. I know this is a trip God has laid out before me and opened up for me to be a part of. So I know He will provide, yet my heart has the human obstacle of worrying about it the funding.

This  circles back around to trust.  I believe that this trip will be life changing in many aspects, as short term trips such as these often are. I have just begun the process of it, but I can share that already I am realizing that my faith is often times weak. And a piece of this journey is Him strengthening my weaknesses.
 I rely on my own strength or my own "know how".
   I play a lot of "what ifs" .
       I ask God to guide, but then I start trying to form my own path, when I don't think He is doing it quickly enough.
 We all do this to a certain extent, but for me, I am realizing just how often I do this. I say I trust God but then my actions show otherwise.

 I was challenged, along with the process, when my 13 year old daughter was sharing with me about not being able to "feel" God. She asked me "Mom, I know He's there, but I don't feel Him. So sometimes I forget and I get frustrated and I just want to see Him."
  I pondered this before answering... because as I answered, it challenged me. " Honey, we can't always feel Him. Sometimes He is seemingly quiet because He wants us to be quiet and wait on Him. To trust in Him. To ask Him and seek Him and then wait. That's what faith is all about. That's what it means to trust Him."
    Can you say.... convicted??  I was immediately caught in what I was saying to be challenged to live out those words.

 Right now, I am being challenged to trust God. As I have to raise about half of the dollar amount by the end of this month,  I am challenged to trust in God. He will provide. I know He will. But knowing and acting out the knowing are 2 different actions completely. So, I am aware of this on a daily basis.

 I have no doubt God will use this trip in my life in incredible ways. He already is. If you'd asked me a month ago if I trusted God with everything, I would have said, absolutely! But, as I have been challenged in this area, I am realizing how weak my trust is at times.

 However, He is asking me to climb up on that log, just as I did as a little girl, and to fall backwards. Into His arms. His promises. And His truths, that He will provide and that He is there and that He is guiding this path.
   One day at a time. I am excited to see where He will guide. And how He will provide.                                   



Sunday, September 27, 2015

A few new experiences

Over the course of the last week, I have processed many thoughts about my experience with the 2015 Air Force Marathon.
 To be quite honest, sometimes experiences hold such depth that words just do not do it justice. I have searched for the perfect verbalizations, but come up empty. However, I have been asked by several people about it, so I want to attempt to put together some of my favorite moments.

 Last year when I was part of the event as staff, I had come into it so close to the unfolding, that I was busy learning and growing and asking. This year I was in it full circle and so much more invested, so the meaning of the weekend held a different perspective for me. I spent the year "talking" to different people through email, and race weekend brings about the moments to put faces with those conversations and handshakes with the thank yous. I get the opportunity to know some of the runners more in depth because my position allows for working closely with registration issues, so when I personally know some of the winners, I think I feel as much victory as they do.  I love my position and what I get to do.

 While many of our staff already knew well one of our guest speakers, this year was my first to really get to know Chuck Engle, Marathon Junkie. He was spunky and fun and motivating. He was very down to earth.

 I had the opportunity to work with all the military teams who take part in the military challenge within our marathon. I spent 6 months "talking" to these people through email. Some of them I had more interaction with than others. Some were considered underdogs, determined to prove themselves stronger than viewed. Others flew in from miles across the world, where they serve our country diligently, to be part of the weekend events. And some had unique stories of competition.   These runners/military members inspire me with how fast they are and how diligently they train. I got to know a few more in depth than others, and learning their stories really makes me take a step backwards to evaluate and realize how fortunate I am for my freedom. Here are a couple of team snapshots I captured.








 One of our dedicated runners set out to complete our event as his 200th marathon. This man is not
young. I don't know his age off the top of my head, but he has had countless life experiences that could leave many people bitter or depressed, but he is so humble and happy. Sid runs for those who can't, to remember fallen heroes, and he carries a flag in all his races. He did not end up finishing our race, but I still find him admirable. I got the opportunity to talk in depth with him before our expo opened, and he left a lasting impression on me.


 One of my favorite experiences from the weekend was getting to know the pilots of our featured aircraft, the U-2 Dragon Lady. Confession: I know absolutely nothing about military aircraft but I have a total fascination with it. These guys helped me be a little less ignorant, and became my friends along the way. They are my heroes. I loved hearing their stories and learning about just how much sacrifice they have made. They are great runners, but even more so,  down to earth, dedicated Americans who give every day to make this a better place for us. They inspired me.  When the plane flew over our event, as cheesy as this will sound, it brought tears to my eyes. The history and the patriotism soared through the air and could not help but be absorbed by the runners, volunteers and staff. I am grateful for this experience.

 The best words I heard all weekend, advice that was really just a conversation and not meant to be advice at all, was from my friend Chief W. Chief said something along the lines of "... it doesn't matter who you are or what you do, you just have to walk with confidence. No matter how you feel, how you carry yourself makes a world of difference in people following and believing."  Chief  had no idea those words would stick with me as much as they did, but they are words that will likely forever be in my memory. In that moment something clicked in me and I very much appreciated that conversation, even though it wasn't about me or meant for me.

 The experiences of the weekend go on, the people I encountered becoming pages in the book of the story of my life. If you can't tell by this post, I completely am in love with what my job is and what I get to do. There are times when it is challenging to work all year long for one day... but those challenges fade and pale in comparison to the moments given to us in the hours of the marathon. I am completely blessed. I have found my element. And I am humbled by the people I met this year. Words cannot give justice to what I have carried away from the experiences; but I hope that my demeanor will carry with it the lessons I took away from this year, as we quickly begin walking into the 2016 planning.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Busy day, busy mind.. FULL heart.

When the heart is full and the mind is racing, the words are difficult to share.
  And yet writing is how I process, and project the depths of my heart for others to better understand me.  So I continue to press on with this blog, even though it more often than not has taken pauses and back seat to other aspects of life lately.

 This week happens to be a pivotal one in life for me. Well, pivotal may not be the right word, but this week holds much significance in my career. The Air Force Marathon takes place this week, and if you follow me at all, you know that's my career.

 There are times during the year when working day in and day out for ONE day to arrive can be frustrating.  Moments feel like eternity when each day is spent prepping for a few hours to pass so quickly. Which is why when the week comes around, I do my best to savor it with every bit of my soul. It is in this week that the office politics, the harder days, the fight for my life lessons that happen along the way almost fade into the distance and the actual here and now shapes the emotions and feelings. It is in this week that I am somehow able to set aside all those negative thoughts and smile from the inside out because I LOVE what I do. It is in this week that people who have known me from my other jobs come by as a participant, see me briefly and later tell me " You are glowing.... " because they can see it's not a fake smile or a make others happy smile. It's a smile that comes from my heart to resonate to those around me.

  Let me just get real here for a moment. I sometimes battle the very real thought of "I'm 'just' an admin..." I can't help it, and bear with me as I share this vulnerable story. There are days I long to move up the chain or  be important or just plain out do more. I fight off the crazy negativity that certain people have a tendency to push my way. I still struggle with the dark places of insecurity. But something has also transpired in me over the last year. And as I have wrestled with that old beast the last few weeks due to circumstances a bit out of my control, in the last few days, those thoughts have all gone away. Because I know that whether or not the title is admin or .... (you insert any title in here) it's really not about a title. It's about the heart. And if anyone has a heart for this event, this girl is it. Me. It's not to say I'm so great. It's not to say I even want a bigger, badder, higher position. Because what I get to do is unique. I get to interact with the runners. I get to solve their problems race week. (People think I'm crazy when I tell them that's my job, but guess what? I happen to love that!) . I get to talk to more of our runners than many of the other staff members. I have heard countless stories that to some may be a burden, but to me... they touch me. Oh, there are crazy ones, too. And ones that I can only later tell others about with my eyes wide in disbelief, but quite honestly, it's a role that fits me to a T. And i wouldn't have it any other way. I love the experiences I am gaining. And the people I am meeting and the pieces this leg of my life journey is using to shape me. Be it through the runners or through my co workers or through my own private journey....

  When I left the coffee world, I shared some of my favorite stories of people with whom I'd interacted through the years. Now, the stories are beginning to form of the runners I am meeting.  What I love about this week is that the many people I hear from through the year (while planning all year long...) I finally get to touch base with in person. It's a beautiful week for me.

  I close out with a brief story, as quite honestly, though the week's almost over, it's really just begun in some aspects because  tomorrow and Saturday will bring along much more significant memories for me, no doubt.  I have "met" many people through the year. Because I meet so many, I cannot always remember them when they come to look me up race week (even if I told them to.. it generally takes me a minute to place which person they are).  I had one runner email to ask for a deferment to next year because he was going through chemo/cancer and simply couldn't complete the event as originally anticipated. While, for several reasons, that is not a request our event can accommodate, I responded (unknowingly) graciously to this older man. I told him what he could do, etc. And essentially wished him the best of luck in his journey forward. (I summarize...) Anyway, this man and his wife came and  found me today, sought me out. I won't go into great depth because it sounds as though I am bragging in sharing, which is not my intention at all.  By the time they left me, shook my hand, i had to fight back the tears because his story was so moving, and his response to me was so humbling that I had no words. This man, fighting for his life in cancer, came to thank me.... when I had done absolutely nothing. He and his wife, as his caretaker, were my heroes, because the road of cancer is so close to my heart. I was completely humbled.
 I don't share that to say "Yay Rachael..." I say that to simply say this week is why I love my job so much. These are the moments I sit and write, even when I am so sleepy, because I don't want to forget them. When it's winter and the race day is behind us and the future one is so far ahead, these are the moments I hang onto. The reasons of many why I love being an admin and "talking" to the runners and solving issues. It's not just  about the running... of course I love that. But it's about so much more to me.
 Gone are the politics.
   Gone are the people who think they are better than me.
     Gone are the frustrated sighs of trying to learn something beyond me.
 And here are the memorable moments.
 The reasons why I do what I do.
  The passion behind my piece of this huge working puzzle that could not be put together without the amazing team of people I get to do this job with.
     The Air Force Marathon.
 2 more days full of fun moments, memories, laughs, probably some crazy new stories, and maybe some new friends.
  but I had to pause and take a moment to share before the moment passed.
   It's not about me. But it's in this week and these moments I can take in and see the day in a new light. And be the strong me I know is in there.
              I love this week and the reminders it gives me.
 Oh, it was a busy day (though my day does not compare to what the logistics team/race director is out there doing right now, they deserve far more credit than they get). And my mind is busy with a million thoughts all over the map. But my heart is FULL.
No doubt there will be a few more posts in the days to come...