Another side

If you have read any of my previous blog posts, you may have gotten a sense that I haven’t always coped with life in healthy ways. You may have learned my running used to not have a positive purpose. You may have gotten a drift that clean water is a cause I 100% support, believing it to be an inalienable right of every individuals. What I have yet to share with you is the history behind why life seemed so unbearable to me, how I became filled with a warped sense of self that sent me down a spiraling journey of self-injury. It is part of this side of my story however, that helped growa passion for clean water in me. Here’s part of the tale.

I was 11 years old the first time I remember attracting an older man’s attention. For two years, a man 40 years my senior flattered me with gifts, sat in the back pew of all my shows, took advantage of my compassion and naivety. For two years I silently bore the weight of his uncomfortable attention, the stifling closeness, the manipulation that I was responsible for his happiness. I felt trapped, broken, scared. I believed if I said anything or stopped responding to his affection, he would do something drastic with his life. I am forever grateful my mother had the insight to realize more lay under the surface of what I shared when I finally did have the courage to speak up. I never saw him again. This side of my story and the trauma I experienced were not the sole cause of my addiction and mental health deterioration. They did however, contribute significantly to the creation of an identity and thought pattern filled with self-loathing, a false sense of being unlovable, believing I was not good enough.

In truth, no human is cabaple of entirely satisfying someone’s needs. In truth, my responsibility as an 11 and 12 year old was not to fulfill this older man’s perverted yearning for relationship. In truth, everyday across the globe and down the street, men, women and children fall victim to the manipulation, violence and captivity of perverted relationships, of slavery. Everyday, men, women and children are held captive–not just with chains and whips, but also with the mental and emotional chains formed through control, bondage, abuse. While victims are claimed through many different methods and mediums, the walk for water is one of the largest sources of human trafficking. The remote routes, averaging 3.74 miles one way, are the perfect hiding place for evil to lurk patiently.

Clean water eliminates illness, dehydration, death. Clean water increases quality of life on both individual and communal levels as more time and energy are now available to put to community advancement projects such as education and farm development. Clean water can spare 11 and 12 year old children (as well as individuals of all other ages) from the horrors of chains, of sunless, airless, soiled quarters, of the physical, mental and emotional abuse of trafficking lords and customers. Personally, that means the world to me. Personally, I would run 10,000 miles for that (with a goal of completing a marathon in all seven continents and all seven world majors, I’m working on that!)) The horrors experienced by over 115 million children alone each min of the day is unacceptible. It’s dispicable. That statistic IS destroyable. One gift of clean water at a time. It’s possible. We can tangibly eliminate a primary source for human trafficking. Will you help?

http://www.teamworldvision.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=53475

Endure

The founder and national director of
Team World Vision is a man by the name of Michael Chitwood. Last year, Chitwood published a book titled “The Ability To Endure,” chronicaling his life story and the inspiration behind Team World Vision. Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book, “To go into the dark places where the hopeless spend their lives can be tiring. But we should never grow weary in our efforts to love others. No, we should go into those places and pursue people with the same unrelenting love with which God our Father pursues us…..it is then that we can see ourselves not as better than those who struggle in hopelessness, but rather on level ground with them. Then our hearts will break for them in such a way that it will motivate is to love them unconditionally,”
Powerful huh? Unrelenting love. I like that.
Here is another quote in his book from an anonymous source, “The race does not always go to the swift, but to the ones who
keep
on
running.”

Relentless forward motion.

 I have always admired sprinters. Watching an elite sprinter race is quite a performance of strength, power, agility and grace. Their speed and form carry an essence of regality I find mesmerizing. The fanfare, the fast-paced atmosphere, the variety, the excitement are all fun to experience. Often, we face life’s hurdles with a track and field type mindset. We gear up for a quick race, ready to deal with pain, suffering, disease in hopes of a nearby finish line complete with cheering crowds, Gatorade and bananas to reenergize with. We gear up for a sprint, we hope for a sprint. We go all out for an idea, we excellerate, we strive, we stride out. 

Do we finish? Do we maintain the same grit and determination when our muscles grow tired and weak? When the excitement fades? The truth is, life is much more like a marathon than a track meet. Life isn’t glamorous. We don’t have crowds cheering at every 100m mark. Instead, life is muddy and life is hilly. It can be lonely, it can seem hopeless. 

During the week I run on my own. I run without music and I often run with only a rough sketch of a route to follow, enjoying the freedom of allowing my feet to explore the city. Sometimes I enjoy my runs. Sometimes I feel exhilarated, powerful, strong. Sometimes I have a lot on my mind and my run passes quickly while I process my thoughts. Sometimes however, my run is painful, sore, weary. Sometimes I constantly look at the time on my watch, wishing for the seconds to speed up. Sometimes I have to resort to mind tactics and tricks to motivate myself to finish. These runs are the ones however, that best prepare me for the marathon. These runs give me confidence that I can and will complete the race, no matter the weather, no matter my mood, no matter my energy level. It’s from these hard runs I develop the determination and physical and mental strength necessary to complete 26.2miles. Because over the course of 26.2 miles, I won’t always feel excited or inspired. Because over 26.2 miles I will hurt, feel discouraged, ache for rest. It’s in those moments however, when I can look back at the collective accomplishments of my teammates and supporters and realize our cause is so much more than the momentary pain I am in. Our cause saves lives. Therefore I will embrace my body’s shifted proportion of slow-twitch muscle fibers and gear up to endure. Because ending the clean water crisis has become a lifelong passion. Because I believe every child is worth clean water and those without deserve our relentless efforts. Equipped with ambition, determination, challenge and grit, I will finish. My goal isn’t to be the fastest, smartest, prettiest, most talented. My goal is to change 200lives. See you at the finish line. http://www.teamworldvision.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=53475

A gift.

Last Monday I got out a little early from work. After finishing my run and a few errands, I still had some extra time on my hands. With every intention of making the most of my summer here in Chicago I decided to go to the beach. Can you believe in the year and a half that I have been in Chicago, I haven’t taken advantage of our beautiful lake front beaches? It was so peaceful to just sit on the sand, listening to the waves lap the shoreline. Reading through a devotional, I became overwhelmed with a sense of awe and gratitude. Here is an excerpt from my journal entry–“When you are given days you didn’t expect. When you faced challenges you never thought you’d overcome. When you wished for new life but didn’t think it was possible. Then love made brave. Then love redeemed. Then love compelled to BE.” 

Several years ago I was given a second chance at life. As I began picking up the pieces of my life, I often wondered “why me?” Components of my story are shared by thousands, yet I was blessed with the resources and support system I needed to recover unlike many. Often I felt undeserving of it, hiding in shame from my past.
Over time, my sense of shame dissolved and my questions of “why?” gave way to an acceptance that I was given the gift of a second chance at life. Instead of focusing on the WHATs and WHYs of my story, I began to focus on my RESPONSE to what had happened. How will I use it? What I used to look on as a burden, I now see as opportunity. I have a passion for advocating for the forgotten, the unloved. My career focus is to improve an individual’s quality of life through independence. I am running a marathon to bring clean water to impoverished communities in Africa. These are some of my ambitions. This is how I want to respond. 

That might sound cool, but I would also like to reiterate that life is NOT easy. It’s twists and turns can be frustrating, unnerving, even tormenting. It is in these valleys of life when responding can be most difficult, and when our response matters most.
This past weekend is a perfect example.

Waking up to the news that a mass shooting occurred in my hometown of Orlando, Florida rocked me. As details of the scale of this horrific act of terrorism were uncovered, I grew overwhelmed.I partially escaped the reality of the situation however, distracted by the commotion of traveling and checking in with my family and friends. It wasn’t until today, when I came home to a quiet house, that it hit me.

The tears didn’t stop. 

My heart is breaking for the friends and families of the victims of this massacre. My heart is breaking for the community to which they belong who were so violently singled out. My heart is breaking for an entire people group discriminated against due to the actions of radicals. 

I cried tears of sorrow, I cried tears of anger, I cried tears of fear.

I also cried over the outpouring of love and support enveloping the victims and their loved ones from the entire world. People are RESPONDING.

Their response provides a tangible reminder that beauty rises from messy. Hope rises from dispare. Love conquers hate. These redeeming qualities have shown through the ugliness of the situation with first responders risking their lives, health care personnel donating time and resources, 3 hour long lines at Orlando blood banks, airline companies donating flights, strangers donating funds, worldwide prayers and vigils.

I don’t think I will ever be able to comprehend the thought processes orchestrating the acts of terror, violence, and abuse in our world. It seems to go against all reason, all morals of humanity. While this comprehension is outside my capabilities as a human, I am grateful that the WHAT’s of life’s unpleasant twists aren’t the periods of the story. I am grateful for the comma, the semi-colon, the hyphen of RESPONSE. Thank you to all who have shown support to the victims, the loved ones, the communities, the city. 

For those of you still looking to get involved, the city of Orlando has set up this link to guide you. http://www.cityoforlando.net/blog/orlandounited-want-to-help-let-us-know/

We were given today. How will we use it? How will we respond?

125

125 days until the 2016 Chicago Marathon. 18 weeks of blood, sweat and tears as runners from all over the world begin the rigorous training in preparation for race day. Hundreds of training miles, divided roughly between 63-70 runs and 18-24 cross training activities stand between the “current” me, and the “race-day-ready” me. As I laced up my running shoes earlier today along with the millions joining me on October 9th, I was filled with all kinds of emotion. I am intimidated. I am exhilarated. I am hopeful
125 days of anticipation
While thinking about the hours, sweat, and potential for injuries stirs up waves of anxiety, I am calmed by the realization that my purpose in this race is so much bigger than my performance on October 9th. Heck! I may have to crawl across that finish line! Regardless of how I finish however, I can be nothing but grateful as long as individuals receive access to clean water.

This marathon season my commitment to training extends far beyond the physical aspects. I am pushing myself outside of my comfort zone spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally because I believe in helping the forgotten, the left out. So for the next 125 days and beyond I will run, write, sweat, train and ask–because everyone deserves clean water. Because clean water changes lives. Because clean water SAVES lives.


How are you pushing yourself to change the world?