Stronger Than You Think

Broken Chains

The sun was hanging by a string in the bright blue sky, brilliantly shining down on the Alabama red clay that hugged the two lane highway.  The car was silent and I could hear the tires protest as they pressed into the hot pavement.  My mind was a wander, filled with events from recent days.  I noted, strangely, in spite of the difficulties as of late my heart felt light.

My mood seemed to be as bright as the day.

Today I felt stronger than I had in a long time.  I’m not talking physically, that’s an ongoing battle as the years roll by.   

I mean mentally.

I think I’ve lived my life on a quest to please others.  When I was young it wasn’t something I did consciously, I just liked being nice and making people smile.  I learned early on kindness and goodness brought about better results than their polar opposites.  I was grown before I really put my finger on what it meant to be a “pleaser.”  During my growing up years we didn’t really analyze personalities or behaviors, at least not in my neck of the woods.  We just sort of lived, one day after another, without thinking much about why we acted the way we did; it just “was,” you know?

It was probably about my mid-twenties when I began to understand I had “pleaser” tendencies.  Pleasing being the desire to make those around me happy even at the cost of my own personal happiness.  That’s not all bad unless you take it to an unhealthy level, as I did.  But, I was okay with it, I liked being nice.  At least most of the time I liked being nice.  (Insert winking emoji here.) 

Because my pleasing tendencies misunderstood what true kindness was, I lived to make sure every difficult person in my life was happy with me.  I would bend over backwards, give up my say in any matter, be walked on or whatever it took to receive that precious “stamp of approval” for which my needy soul longed.

You know what I’ve learned?

You cannot please some people.  You simply cannot.  Spending your time, your ONE precious life the good Lord gave you, trying to make some unhappy soul happy is a waste of your days.  Trust me.  It took over half my life to fully understand what I really longed for wasn’t their approval, but my own.  I needed to come to terms with who I was and begin to like that person and no one else on the earth could do it for me. 

I know some of you will read the last statement and feel like it is a rather obvious revelation, but it wasn’t for me, it took feeling “unlikable” to the point of desperation. 

When I finally came to the end of me and all of my empty attempts, God began his work.

My husband and I committed to read the Bible through this year.  We found and started a three hundred and sixty five day plan on the YouVersion Bible app.  We even formed our own little group of two to keep us accountable.   So, every morning I get up, get a cup of coffee and read the devotion and scripture for the day. 

It has become my routine.

Well, something kind of hard happened this week.  When hard things used to happen to me I would shrink inside and start to figure out ways I could escape the uncomfortable feelings that go along with difficulty.  My “pleaser” side would come galloping up in my heart and work overtime to try and keep everybody happy. But, interestingly, as I thought the previous events through, I noticed I didn’t feel like running for cover from the situation.   

I felt something that felt a lot like…strong.

The kind of strong that doesn’t want to run.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not looking for conflict but I am learning sometimes conflict brings resolution.   

I began to rehearse all the passages I’d read in scripture over the last several months reminding me of the great power and unmatched strength of my God.   I honestly feel my cause is a righteous one so I brought it up in prayer like I have so many times in recent days.  It was in the middle of this train of thought, while I watched miles of Alabama red tilled up dirt fly by, the Lord showed me something.

I wasn’t afraid.

Yes, I wished the situation would just magically work itself out. 

But, I wasn’t afraid.

You know in any tough situation there is always a chance you’ll get the shaft, or you’ll be talked about, or be misunderstood, judged, or all of those things.  But, when you’ve taken your situation to the Lord, and you lay it before him faithfully in prayer, He has promised to be your defender. 

Scripture tells us He is, if only we will be quiet, settle down and let him work things out.

Being quiet and still is so very hard, especially for someone like me who wants it all to work out.  I can’t stand the idea of someone having hurt feelings.  I wish for everyone to stand around, hold hands and sing kum by yah.  And I want them to do it quickly so no one feels awkward.

This world can be a mean place.

But, we don’t have to be mean to thrive here.

We do need inner strength.  The kind that weathers storms bound to invade our lives at some point.  The only way we can have healthy inner strength, that isn’t derived from anger or fear, is by filling our hearts and minds with God’s word.  His word is strength and in it lies the power to be strong in the face of adversity.  Not the defiant kind of strength we’ve all had at one time or another in our lives, but the quiet strength that comes from really believing God can handle the situation. 

Not just knowing he CAN handle it but trusting he WILL.

I need to tell you as of right now, while I’m writing this, so far everything has not worked out and everything is not fine.  But, I want, no, I need to remind myself and you that we can be okay in the midst of very hard things.  

I find myself at peace.  

I know he is going to make sure I am kept safe.  There may be some storms to weather, but he controls the weather so, there’s that. 

The objective of this writing is to encourage us all to STAY IN THE WORD. Make time for it, get up early, stay up late, read it at lunch.  Do whatever you need to make sure you have time to stick your nose into God’s word.  It’s worth it. When I read from day to day to day, I don’t necessarily feel strength overtake my heart like a flood, it’s more of a slow seeping that builds until I find myself driving on a two lane highway on a sunny Alabama afternoon, feeling peace even though a “storm” is blowing around me. 

I know the Lord has my best interest at heart and he has my back, my front, he’s above me and below me and completely around me. 

In him I am kept safe.

And so are you.

And that is a pleasing thought indeed.

“For am I now seeking the approval of man or of God?”   Galatians 1:10a

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Silent Treatment

Silent Treatment photo

I never would have considered myself very competitive until recently.  I’m not sure if I’ve become more competitive or if I’ve just identified something that was always there.  Anybody else out there wonder if they’ve changed over time or if you just get to know yourself better as the years roll by?

Being in a lasting relationship with the same person has given me opportunity to realize this streak; I have to win.

To win what, you ask?

If you have to ask, you’re already a better person than me.

There is a real desire in me to win every argument.   Don’t judge me too harshly, I know there’s a group of us out there who have fought over the years with the sole purpose of winning.  Am I right? Whenever “issues” arise, and inevitability, if there are two people trying to live together issues WILL arise, resolving them was only possible if I was the winner of the “discussion.”

I know, you’re glad you’re not married to me.  I can be impossible.

I’ve worked long and hard not to be such a difficult person.  I’ve read scripture, memorized it and asked God to change my heart.  And He has, I am forever grateful. BUT, occasionally I get a wild hair, and some of my former behavior comes barreling up out of my soul like a bull on the loose and I can’t seem to stop it.

I had hoped those days were behind me.

I say, “I hoped” because I had a “moment” with my darling husband recently that sent me reeling back about ten years in personal growth.

It wasn’t pleasant.

The past few weeks I’ve been in a Bible study with some church lady friends and I am learning so much.  Among the many things we’ve talked about, our personal relationships has been my favorite.  I love people, but I have a hard time letting my guard down sometimes.  I find it easier if I keep up the “wall” so I don’t get hurt or hurt someone.

In our study we talked about having healthy relationships where we feel safe and don’t always have to be in control.

I’ve learned that’s what my “wall” is, my way of keeping control of the situation or relationship or both.

My husband and I were in the car recently talking away about everything and nothing, I was enjoying it, I assumed he was too.  I was IN THE MIDDLE of a sentence when he suddenly reaches forward and turns the radio up loud enough to drown out my voice.   Literally, it drowned out my voice completely.

First I was stunned and then I was livid.

I mean, really?!

If he didn’t want to listen to what I was saying, all he had to do was say so.

And I told him that in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS.

Well, actually, there was no “speaking” involved.  I quietly picked up my phone and began to aimessly scroll through social media.  In my mind I rehearsed all the reasons why what he’d done was completely unacceptable.  Unkind. Unthinkable. Uncaring.

Unforgivable.

So, in exchange for what he had done, I gave him the silent treatment.

Let him listen to the radio, I seethed to myself, the radio was all he’d get for the next hour until we reached our destination.  He’d be sick of the radio by the time I was done.

Sorry if this offends you, it’s just the unedited truth.

There we sat, me scrolling through social media, too blind with anger to see a darn thing and he profusely apologizing once he’d realized what he’d done.

He’d hurt my feelings and therefore awakened the dragon of my desire to be in control; of the situation or relationship or both.   If you hurt me, you pay.  That was my message, and he was getting it LOUD and CLEAR.  Meanwhile, he felt terrible.  All he’d meant to do was share an 80’s song from the radio.

As I was sitting there, the miles passing by in perfect silence, because he’d had the good sense to turn off the radio by then, the Lord began to deal with my heart.   Hadn’t we just discussed in Bible study how we need to quit trying to control those we love with emotional blackmail or the silent treatment.

Still I sat there in silence, determined to “win” and get my point across.  Honestly, I’m not even sure what my point was?  Don’t turn up the radio while I’m talking, maybe?  I’m still not sure why I couldn’t just say that without falling headlong into ridiculous behavior.

But, since I had started the silence, I was determined not to be the one to break it.

He would have to speak first, and then I would WIN.

Don’t ask me what I was winning, I’m not sure, but I’m guessing it had to do with my pride.

As I sat there in silence, I realized I’d come to a crisis of belief.   I could continue in my bad behavior or I could decide then and there to let it go and move on.  I wish I could say I immediately broke the silence, but I didn’t.

I argued with the Lord a bit.

Pride doesn’t die easy.

After all, what he’d done was rude, even though I’d misinterpreted it.  I was talking, after all, he could’ve waited until I was done, that would’ve been the polite thing to do.  But, he really didn’t mean to drown me out like I’d assumed, he wanted to share something with me.

Back and forth it went in my head.

Finally, after several miles of wrestling in my mind about whether or not I would have the last word in this situation, the Lord told me to speak.

So I spoke.

Ugh!   He can be so bossy sometimes!

My throat was tight when I finally spoke, and all I could think to say was, “Can’t believe it’s spring already.”  Kind of sounds like something you’d say in polite conversation with a stranger.  It felt like someone had a hold of my vocal chords.  I literally had to push the words out.

He quickly responded and we slowly fell into comfortable conversation.

As we talked I quietly thanked God for helping me put into practice something I’d learned.  Sometimes l learn a truth and the Lord has to test me on it in four thousand different ways to make sure I get the idea.  I guess I’m thick headed.  By the time he’s done, it’s burned into my soul. But, time has a way of making me forget, so I have to learn the lesson again and again.

There’s a verse that’s been rolling around in my head lately, it has to do with being tested and considering it “pure joy” when we are put through something hard; a test of character.  It’s so important that we recognize a test when we are going through it and then equally important that we pass it.  If we don’t pass, we keep being tested until we do.

I am so thankful the Lord helped me realize this “radio misunderstanding” was a test and I was able to do the right thing even though I didn’t feel like it.

I passed.

I am sure I will be tested three thousand nine hundred and ninety nine more times, but for this one time, I PASSED!  I still don’t consider it pure joy that I went through it, but I’m working on it.

One little mishap, conversation, relationship, day at a time.

You wonder what song my husband wanted me to hear on the radio?  You know, I don’t even remember, I was too busy talking.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”   James 1:2-4

Waiting

girl-waiting-for-train-alone

I think I’m having a midlife crisis, or maybe I’m just a bit crazy, or maybe both.  Nothing seems to satisfy this longing in my heart.  This emptiness.  For the first time since I can remember my calendar is not busting at the seams with activity and no one is expecting me to be anywhere.  I find myself wandering around the house aimless from time to time wondering what to do next.

I’m waiting for the next thing.

I have no idea what the next thing is, but I’m standing at my window watching for it as though it holds the key to saving my life, or at least my sanity.

I thought I might travel once the kids were out of the house, turns out I’m not cut out for weekend jaunts.  I don’t recover like I used to.  I find packing the excessive amount of necessities I need for forty eight hours stresses me out more than relaxes me.  I’ve never learned how to pack light.  I drag multiple suitcases filled with way more stuff than I’ll probably ever need, but, I have to bring it, you know, “just in case.”

I thought I would remodel the house or something in these midlife years, but I’m pretty sure I’ll hate the mess it makes so, that’s out.  Is it too weird to move to the college town where my kids live and follow them around?  Why can’t we just agree to be one big happy family under one roof forever?

I’m not handling these empty bedrooms well.

I hear the whistle of the wind outside when I sit on the couch in my outdated living room; has the sound of it always been there?  Our house was always a buzz with activity before so I never noticed.

So, in my distress, I turn to the Lord and pour out my lament.  Where else can I take all my frustrations and fears?  No one else cares like He does.  Well, your momma cares, but since mine is with the Lord, He gets a double dose of me.  I would apologize for that, but, after reading Psalms, I see David was as whiny as me and God loved him, so, I’m pretty sure He’ll keep loving me too.

Day after day I cry out to God, “What do you want me to do with my life now?”  And day after day I hear….

Silence.

Nothing, crickets, nada.

My house is empty.

My mom is gone.

My dad is happily remarried.

All the things I thought I would be doing right now…I’m not doing.

I feel unneeded and sometimes unwanted.

And still God says nothing, so I wait.

Waiting for instruction, waiting for direction, for purpose and for healing… anything.

 

Speaking of waiting, have any of you ever spent any time in a waiting room with a sick child pining for a nurse to call you back only to wait again in the examining room for the doctor?  And if you have, have you ever said to yourself, “I’m so glad to be sitting here waiting, there is nowhere else I’d rather be, this is so great to just sit and wait.”

If you are a soul that loves the wait, I’m pretty sure we won’t be best friends.

Waiting makes me pace the floor, figuratively and in reality.

Waiting makes me frustrated and sassy.

I don’t like it.

It seems the good Lord knows this and has decided I need to grow in this area, so here I sit in the waiting room of my life.

And I’m not happy about it.

I’m trying to be so careful not to fill my days with meaningless activity, I really want my time to be used wisely. BUT, he didn’t get my, “I am bored,” memo so here I am on a weekend dusting the house and looking out the window waiting for life to come barreling though my front door and fill me with purpose.

Yes, that’s what missing these days, purpose.

What is the purpose in all this WAITING?

What could God possibly be doing?

He must’ve forgotten how much he NEEDS me to be out there helping him.

But, no, he tells me in his word he never forgets me, he knows the number of hairs on my head.

So why all the waiting?

I don’t have an answer, maybe I’ll get one sooner or later, but I bet it has something to do with obedience.  Obedience and probably some issues that lie deep within my heart he knows I need to work through.  But, it’s easier to keep “busy.”

It’s hard to stay put when it hurts, it’s hard to rest when it’s uncomfortable.

The Lord has brought me so far, but loss and loss and more loss has left me deeply wounded.   In my zest to be past all of this hurt, I run on and on to the next “thing.”  It’s much easier to HIDE and SUPRESS those painful feelings when you’re too BUSY to think about anything except what’s in front of you at the moment.

I wish the Lord would give me a map or a sheet of instructions of what I’m supposed to be doing right now, wouldn’t that just be helpful?  Then I would get up each day, look at the list and know I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.  It would be so much easier.

But, where’s the relationship in that?

No reason for communication when I could just get out my handy dandy list and follow along for the day.

So, here’s what I’ve established for this “I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing” period of my life.

I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.

Brilliant, huh?  You may have been hoping for an insightful answer, but this is all I’ve got.

I’m going to keep praying and lamenting until the Lord shows me what’s next, or until he gets so tired of hearing from me he moves me on to the next season of life.

I may not like all of this waiting and feelings of purposelessness, BUT I am going deal with it.  As a matter of fact, I will deal with whatever emotion or unhealthiness he brings up out of this broken heart.

And while I’m sitting in this waiting room of life, I guess I’ll clean my house or bake cookies or something.

And wait.

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up on wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not be faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

Holy Week

Catholic Church pic

I love the week leading up to Easter.   In Christian circles it’s called “Holy Week.”  It’s become one of my favorite times of the year.  We have a unique tradition in our small town; I think it’s pretty isolated to this place as I’ve never heard of it anywhere else.  Each day at lunch hour a different church in town organizes a small service followed by a quick lunch.   It’s a pretty special week as the Baptists mingle with the Catholics, and the Presbyterians worship with the Episcopalians, you get the idea.  

It’s the spirit of community at its finest.

Today we met at the Catholic Church for a short service and then feasted on a variety of sandwiches served with sweet tea and petit fours for dessert.   But, as much as I enjoyed the lunch with all of its flavors and fixings, I was especially encouraged by the message given by the Baptist preacher.  Yes, the Baptist preacher, I know I said the service was at the Catholic Church.  That’s part of the beauty of Holy Week Services, the preachers and priests are each asked to speak in a church that is not their own.    

It’s amazing really.

Last week I was talking to my daughter about different songs she could sing in our little church on Easter Sunday.  We were rattling off the different tunes that hold a special “He is Risen” emphasis when a song came to mind I haven’t heard in years.  The beauty of it rings in my heart this time of year.  The words talk about Mary when she took an alabaster box of perfume and poured it over Jesus’ feet as a humble offering of thankfulness.  I’ve read in the days of Christ it wasn’t uncommon for expensive perfumes to be offered as gifts to the church to be sold and the money given to the poor.   When the disciples saw her “waste” this perfume by pouring it on Jesus, they were indignant.   But, Jesus understood the depth of her offering like they could not, and he rebuked the disciples telling them what she’d done would be told to countless generations.   

This scented gift likely cost her all she had.   

You can find the story in scripture in John 12:1-8.

It’s one of my favorites.

Sitting in the crowded small sanctuary of the Catholic Church, I listened as the Baptist preacher started the message by reading the passage in John. He went on to talk about worship and praise in its many different forms.  To me, this story is such a perfect picture of what worship looks like.  A thankful woman kneeling at the feet of Jesus, tears flowing offering all she has in praise. 

I can see her in my imagination, too caught up in the moment to be one bit embarrassed of her outlandish behavior.

How many times have you or I knelt at the side of our bed or by the couch or at the alter in church and cried tears of loss and thankfulness; tears that cost us something.  Mary’s perfume was tangible and the cost was measurable.  The song I talked to my daughter about says, there is a praise that is not measured by money that costs a person everything, it’s an offering not visible to human eyes. 

Jesus knew Mary’s tears were just as expensive as her perfume.

You know we all have an alabaster box of some sort, whether we realize it or not.  Our “box” is the place we hold our most costly praise.  In our deepest times of worship we dip into this box and offer our sacrificial gifts to our Heavenly Father as an offering.

For me, loss fills my alabaster box. 

Loss of my mom, loss of youth, of children running around the house and a life I thought I had figured out.   I’ve laid down hopes and dreams I thought should come true and ideas about what I wish tomorrow would hold.    It’s a painful experience to open this box, everything inside had a price. But, in those most precious moments of private worship, I open it carefully and pour some of the contents on my Savior’s feet.

It’s a beautiful painful experience. 

Losing something to gain something greater.

Strangely, I always feel a sense of deep gratitude in the midst of the pain.  Yes, I have lost much, but I have been given so much more.   Honestly, I don’t always remember that, but when I open my alabaster box, I am compelled to thank the Lord for every single lesson or truth I’ve learned by walking through the darkest of times.   Times I thought I wouldn’t make it, times when I questioned “why?”  Times when I wondered where God had gone and why had the darkness taken over.  But, time and again, he’s brought me through.  And time and again, I offer up my deepest praise for the journey.

Isn’t that what Easter is all about?  New beginnings born from deep loss.

It’s hope for the future, hope for each other and hope for life eternal.  It’s a time to worship Christ the King for his incomparable sacrifice of one life for another; his life for mine.  I’m not sure I will ever really be able to thank him fully for all he has done.  

So, in the midst of Easter lilies and choir cantatas, new dresses and matching shoes, big hats and pastels, little girls in hair bows and little boys with bow ties—there is a greater joy, the celebration of a suffering Savior and an alabaster box.

No basket of goodies and chocolate bunnies can compare to this gift.

Well, after the benediction of the Holy Week service, I found way behind the little Catholic Church to Parish Hall and feasted on Muffuletta sandwiches and grape salad.  There was plenty of laughter and conversation to go around and I left there spiritually and physically full.  You know, I wish we would do this sort of thing more often during the year, I’m pretty sure there will be Catholics, Baptists and Presbyterians the like in heaven.  

There will be a spirit of community like none other.

Walking With a Limp

Me with half marathon medal

I’ve been training for a half marathon for quite a while now and last weekend was when all of my training was put to the test.  In case you’re not sure, a half marathon is 13.1 miles.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Why would anyone on earth want to run that far when you can easily get in your car and drive it with no pain and minimal effort?  My response?  I have no idea.  It seemed like such a fun idea at the time, but reality has proven to be much harsher than my pipe dream of becoming a marathon champion. 

There is a back story to why I wanted to run this particular half; this wasn’t my first time.

The first time I ran it I had just been told my mother had cancer and I was devastated.  The idea in running it a second time was to go back on the five year anniversary of the first run and sort of recreate the memory.  I wanted to look back on this event and not feel overwhelming sadness.

I trained, well I tried to train.  It seemed one thing after another kept me from being able to really put my heart into it.   First it was hip pain. When that cleared up it was foot pain, and when that went away it was shin splints.  It seemed there was always an obstacle to overcome.  But, I had decided I was going to do this race to the best of my ability; so I pushed through. 

It wasn’t pretty.

When I look back now, I realize I probably wasn’t prepared enough, but I figured sheer determination would get me through; it always had before.  I don’t think I was factoring in the extra years of wear and tear on my body, my mind sometimes forgets how old these old bones are.

Or as my daddy says, “My mind writes checks my body can’t cash.”   

This race was especially fun, as is everything at Disney.  It was the Princess Half Marathon and I’d say sixty five percent of the twenty five thousand people who ran the race were dressed up in some form or another; Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, Pocahontas, folks in giant bear costumes, and of course, plenty of pink tutus and sparkles.

My absolute favorite.

It was 2:30am when we got up to catch a 3:30am bus to our race site.  Butterflies the size of crows filled my stomach as I waited at the start line for our coral to be set free onto the course for which we’d trained.  It was in this time of waiting I encountered some people called “pacers.”  I’d never run with “pacers” before and the idea intrigued me.  They were setting their sights on an ambitious timed goal and in that moment of heightened emotions and uncontrolled adrenaline and obvious hysteria I thought to myself, “I can do that, I can keep up with these pacers and have an awesome race.” 

Except, I couldn’t. (My mind was writing a check…)

The time finally arrived and fireworks exploded as our group went flying into the darkness to run like our lives depended on it for thirteen miles.  I set my mind on keeping up with the “pacers” and away we went.  First mile, I was hanging on.  The pace was faster than I was used to, but I could do this, I shouted to my inner self, “I CAN DO THIS.” 

But, I couldn’t.  (…my body couldn’t cash.)

Second mile, then the third and I’m feeling the fatigue, but I was still determined, or maybe, crazy; I’ll let you decide.

Right before the sixth mile I knew it was hopeless.  The pacers were barely in sight and I began to notice some mounting pain in my left shin.  I remember passing through Cinderella’s castle in Magic Kingdom thankful I could still run, the 10k mark was just beyond the castle and once I crossed into the seventh mile I began to retreat.  The pacers flew on without me, finishing right on time I’m sure.  I ran slower and slower until mile eight or so when I had to walk.

It wasn’t a speedy walk, no, I was walking with a limp.

My shin was completely ruined, or at least it felt that way, and all I could do was stretch, then walk, then stretch, then walk.  There was the occasional water station and I stopped once at the medical tent, but only for some bio freeze; then I hit the road again. 

I just kept walking, with a limp.

Mile nine, then mile ten and I hurt so much that I wanted to quit.

But, I didn’t.

I just kept walking with a limp.

The last mile of the race was the most painful, not just because of my leg, but because at this point folks were lining the streets yelling and cheering in the weary runners.  I limped by them, so sad that I hadn’t been able to run my race.

It struck me pretty hard at this point how different things might have been if I’d just run the race I’d trained for, the one I’d planned.  This could’ve all gone so differently if I hadn’t gotten smitten with the crowd and followed them so gullibly and readily.  I was living in regret and I hadn’t even gotten to the end of the course.

Once I crossed the finish line, I cried.  I just cried.  Volunteers were passing out wet towels and soaked sponges, it was so hot.  But, I just walked by them all, tears streaming down my red cheeks.  The one bright spot was getting the medal put around my neck.  I’ll never forget what that felt like.  I was so tired, my leg was throbbing, my clothes were soaked with sweat; all I wanted was to sit down and cry some more, but then a nice lady put a medal around my neck and relief washed over me. 

I had done it!

Finished!

I limped over to the food station and found my friend.  We exchanged congratulations and proceeded to sit on the hot pavement to catch our breath.  It wasn’t long until I found the water station and we boarded a bus back to where we’d started at 3:30am. 

It was over.

All the long months of training ended with a medal and a limp.

You know, I am so thankful there are no rules against walking in a race.  Oh it feels good to run when you’ve trained to do that, but sometimes things don’t go as planned and we do whatever’s necessary to make it. 

Life is a lot like that.

I find myself “running” along in this race of life when suddenly I’m hit with tragedy or loss and, just like my shin, I find I’m slowed by the pain.  I want to keep pushing through the hurt, but it’s so hard, it takes everything in me to keep moving forward.  I want to quit.  But, instead of quitting, I decide to work through the problem; I apologize to the person or I work through the grief. 

It hurts and I cry.

But I keep on “walking.”

And when the difficulty is through, when I’ve made it through to the other side of the hardship, when I’ve “crossed the finish line” of a difficult journey, I find that I’m walking with a limp.

My limp reminds me what I’ve been through.

And that I made it.

I lived.

I’m a survivor.

And even though my pace may not always be what I’d like, I’ve learned it doesn’t have to be pretty, I just have to keep moving forward, one step at a time.

And finish.

I’m not sure when or if I’ll run another half marathon, I know I will never forget this one, at least not for a while; “Why?” you ask?

Because I’m still walking with a limp.