Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sarah's Story (The 2016 Linda A. Ferguson Scholarship Recipient)

For those of you who have followed my blog for some time, you will be familiar with the Linda A. Ferguson Memorial 5K, which I help put on in memory of my mom. The entire reason that exists is to raise funds for a scholarship in mom's memory, given to a student studying to be a nurse, with an interest in oncology. 
 Directing that event has taught me lessons which have helped me grow in tremendous ways. The event has seen growth and decline both. It's taken place on a bike path, a cross country course, and now the Cedarville University Campus. There are a handful of participants who have been there for each race. I have had friends along side me through the experience, as well as losing some of my friends who were once dedicated helpers (which were hard lessons, but ultimately, I learned that some friendships are meant for a season.) The 5K once took place in the fall, but has been moved to the early summer time now. I have discovered strength I never knew existed within me, that is completely God given, as I try to honor Him through this event and through the gifts He has given me. And ultimately, the event is what provided me the avenue to be in the career which I now do, working for the Air Force Marathon. 

Now, we approach what will be the 5th Annual Linda A. Ferguson Memorial 5K in June.  I am not a quitter, so I won't say I have felt like quitting with the event at times, but let me share that many times discouragement and frustration have existed within the planning. Like with any event, there are twists and turns that come unexpected, we compete with a handful of other events in the same weekend, and most of the planning is based on a guesstimated number of participants, because with a run, many people do not sign up until last minute. But, every year, I keep going with it because every year God blesses the efforts. Like I said, I have learned lessons that at times leave me at a loss for words and humble me. 

While the 5K for 2016 will not take place for 2 months, (which any event planner will tell you will be here so quickly!) the scholarship from the funds we raised in 2015 was awarded yesterday, April 5, at Cedarville University, and I want to share a little about it. 

This is why I do this event. This is the whole reason we exist. My dad and I are not so worried about carrying on mom's name- that just happens to be a beautiful piece of what takes place. No, what we care about is seeing students being able to continue their education so that they can go into the world, into the darker corners of cancer patient's lives, and carry them a little bit of hope with the love of Jesus that exists within them.  The 2016 Scholarship recipient has become a young lady who has touched me in a way she may never know. Her story, though I only know slices of it, inspires me to push on with this event so that we can keep awarding this scholarship. Her testimony is one which spoke to me. While every recipient has had a beautiful story to accompany their life, Sarah, the new recipient, connected with me in a profound way.

 Perhaps it's the fact that my heart is in a new place this year. I have done much personal healing in my own life, not to mention finally being a pretty healthy place having moved past the ugly trenches of grief and mess. While in the past, giving away the scholarship and hosting the 5K brought me much joy, this year it is accompanied with much peace. Perhaps it is the genuineness of Sarah's gratitude and testimony. Or maybe even it's a combination of all of those and the fact that I see God in every little detail these days. But, I want to share with you just a little bit about Sarah, the little bit that I learned. 

 I likely do her story injustice, only sharing the pieces that I know. However, I want you to know the impact this scholarship played in her life, which is leaving an impact on me.

 Sarah is a sophomore at Cedarville University. She is a twin, which my dad loved because he also is a twin. Her twin brother is also a nursing student. Sarah comes from a background of having grown up on the mission field in France. That alone connected my heart a tiny bit more to her. She was so grateful for the scholarship and very easy to converse with. I do appreciate the opportunity CU offers in hosting a luncheon for the recipients and donors, so we can learn more about each person. 
 In conversing, when I asked Sarah what she wanted to do with her nursing, without skipping a beat, she said "Pediatric Oncology". I liked the determination in her voice. But, she then went on to tell me and dad why....
  She shared that when she was 11, she had Leukemia, spending much time that year in St. Jude's Children's Hospital, so she knows firsthand what it's like for a child to face cancer. She remembers those nurses who helped her, and she wants to become that same ray of light to other kids battling cancer themselves. 
 If she hadn't shared that, of course I would never have known. There's no evidence of it having been a part of her journey. 
 When I said something about how hard that year must have been, her response humbled me. Sarah told me that it actually is one of the best years of her life. Not because of the cancer, mind you. Of course that was horrible. But because of how strongly she could feel the presence of God in her life that year. 
 What an incredible testimony. I love that she is our recipient this year.

 One more amazing fact to share about all of this. Every year, I spend time in prayer over what we do and that God will use it. I never know how that's going to unfold. I pray in faith. And over the last 6 months, I have watched God do some incredible acts through prayers of myself and others. One of the conversational pieces that went on with Sarah was how much she had been praying for a scholarship or some provision. Look at how God interweaved the prayers of my heart and the prayers of hers!  That is awesome! She had no idea about the scholarship and so the gratitude she expressed spoke volumes to me, let alone her story to go with it. 

 I see so many little life lessons to take away from this moment in time. I don't know how many more years the 5K will take place... I let God guide that each and every year. But He keeps showing up, so we keep pushing on with it. But, moments like this remind me that the efforts and prayer and work that goes into it, regardless of how much I enjoy it (or  how much it might stress me out!)  it's not about me, it's not about mom and it's not about running.... it's about using gifts for His glory so that others can be blessed. And not just the recipient, but all of the hundreds of patient's lives she will touch in the years to come. 

God is good. All the time. 
Sarah getting her scholarship from Dean of Nursing, Angelia Mickle

Me, my dad and recipient, Sarah 

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