Monday, May 16, 2011

Humbled to Serve

Something that stuck in my head from my adventures over the weekend as I volunteered for the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon..

I was at the Finish Line of the MCHH, stationed with Kimani and a stretcher ready to catch people as they drop across the finish line. Fortunately, there were very few people that required my assistance, but this left me in a perfect position to witness the faces of the half marathon finishers. We weren’t stationed at the finish until about 9:30 am, so we were watching the last half or third or so of people finish the race. These were obviously not as fast as others, but scope of achievement for them as they crossed that line was proudly apparent on their faces. Many were out of shape, or it was a first race, but for all, a huge accomplishment. One man came across the finish line shaking and crumbled as we placed him onto a stretcher. He was still sort of spazzing as he’s being tied into the stretcher, and we finally make out, “I finished, I finished!” Then there were the Marines, handing chilled bottles of water to finishers and saying, “Good job, sir,” or “Good job, ma’am”. As the finishers walked through the finish chute, there was literally a wall of Marines, armed with finisher medals. I was helping somebody walk off cramps as they progressed through the chute – at this point most finishers were coming across staggered, one at a time – we approach that wall of Marines, and one steps forward, ready to decorate my cramping finisher with his heavy medal. It was an odd reversal, the Marine decorating the civilian. But for many, this race seemed to reflect the general feeling of “I don’t know what I can do for you; but I can push myself through 13.1 miles to show you I appreciate what you do for me. And it won’t be near enough pain I’m going through to come close to showing how much I really want to thank you.”

It seemed as if the later the race progressed, the more solemn, and proud, and satisfying the finish was. The Marine next to me told me why of all the race duties he’s done before this was by far his favorite. “You see their faces before or during the race. But it’s so much more gratifying to see them cross the finish. The achievement is written all over their faces. I like being able to say ‘Good Job,’ right here.” (I’m paraphrasing from what I remember, and I wish I had gotten this guy’s name).

There’s nothing like a good-looking Marine handing you cold water at the finish. I can’t tell you how these Marines made the day for the finishers. From the daughter-mother-grandmother team I watched cross the finish hand-in-hand to the 80-year-olds proudly stride through, having these Marines here meant the world.

Besides being stationed at the finish line, served alongside current and retired Marines at Medical Operations and got to know them all a bit. Our OIC (officer-in-charge) at Aid Station 2 was a vet named Harold. What a character, definitely fun and enlightening spending the morning with him and Kimani, our former enlisted, currently working as civilian staff at Quantico. Hearing some of their stories and backgrounds - Harold has been on 7 tours of Iraq - and basically hanging out with Marines all day gave me a little flavor of the culture. I couldn't be prouder of them.

A race is a humbling experience. You push your body through what your brain tells you shouldn’t or couldn’t be done. At the end, you’re spent, physically, and sometimes emotionally. People race for different reasons. Some are trying to push themselves, see how far they can go past possibility or comfort. Some are competing, trying to outrace the man or woman ahead of them. Some are raising money or awareness for a worthy cause. Some are racing for all three. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be not only celebrating my heart surgery recovery with the Marine Corps Marathon, but to be fundraising for Semper Fi Fund at the same time. I am so proud of my Marines. Our Marines. They deserve a lot from us, and I can at least do this.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Just a short update...

New PR!

ACLI Capital Challenge
3 miles
Official Time 29:02
(Unofficial Net Time 28:40)

Split 1: 9:23
Split 2: 9:50
Split 3: 9:17

UMMMM I've never done splits for a race under 10 minutes! Stinking proud of myself.

In other news:
  • Played again at church this morning. Beautiful set. I could really get used to playing there, especially as I'm *mostly stopped freaking and stressing out about performing in front of others.
  • Ordered Mom flowers for Mother's Day and had them delivered to her while she was working a double shift at the hospital on Saturday/Sunday. To be followed by Wine Festival next weekend. BEST DAUGHTER EVER. :D
  • School is almost over!!!! I can be a human again!!! (Until Summer and FINAL semester for UVA starts in 2 weeks...)
  • Signed up for more races... posts will be forthcoming.
  • I've been able to run well again, and totally digging the trails. It's felt really good to get back to running-as-worship, and running unplugged. Hopefully more on this later too. Again, I've been a busy-running-working-schooling-zombie. But no excuses! :)

I run in the path of your commandments, for you set my heart free. Psalm 119:32

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Giant bucket of fail...

Many people know of Jeremiah 29:11. It's one of those 'cross-stitch' verses that make it on to encouraging hallmark cards.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

And that is not to make light of this verse, because it is powerful and encouraging. But there is so much more to it:

Jeremiah 29:10-14
This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.

I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Immediately before the verse where God says I have plans for you, he tells the Jewish people "When seventy years are completed for Babylon" - in otherwords, when you have been through your trials, and struggles, and life - "I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place." We often leave 29:10 out of our cross-stitch pillows, because somehow it makes 29:11 seem less encouraging. As if now we have to endure our trials, often the trials of our own making.

And I keep forgetting that. I neglect to make God the focus of my life, even more so when I feel overwhelmed with all the problems and responsibilities I've created for myself.

I came home at the end of the day yesterday. It had been a busy, long, tiring day, and I still felt like a giant bucket of fail for not getting everything done that I needed to. What I had gotten done was important and worthwhile - I was in jail that morning with our prison ministry team, I finished reading a textbook chapter, I spent time with my family, including some important and long-missed one-on-one time with my cousin. And I left my poor mother standing at the end of the driveway, saying goodbye to me, seeing me angry, tired, and frustrated. I still had not written a paper that was due for class on Wednesday (last week). I still had not read the remaining chapters, taken a quiz, or done the homework for my other class. So even at the end of what was a great day, I was angry and disappointed, and had no one to blame but myself.

Amidst this disappointment and self-loathing, I read the above verses from Jeremiah. "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." And I realize I haven't been seeking Him first. And that's why I feel so estranged from Him lately. I've been so wrapped up in seeking to take care of myself first. I haven't been whole-hearted in my pursuit. Instead I try to schedule him in my calendar between work, school, and running, and I do so poorly.

Ryan Hall tweeted these verses from Proverbs 1 this morning:
33 But all who listen to me will live in peace,
untroubled by fear of harm.” (NLT)

The rest of it in NIV is
Proverbs 1:32-33
32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety
and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

I so desperately want that peace. I seek to be untroubled by fear of harm. But I am wayward, and I seek to please myself, to keep myself from harm, before I seek His face.

I run recklessly into adventure, without concern for anything else except that blinding joy of movement. I did this without concern for my heart blowing up, I still run recklessly without concern for my health, without concern for my schedule or other obligations. I put this blinding joy first. I pray that as recklessly as I do this, that I would be just as reckless with putting Him first, and I would do so without regard to my safety, health, schedule, but just be all-consumed by that blinding joy of running towards His face.