God has blessed me with a couple of older friends in which I can glean wisdom. A couple of dear friends my own age that are experiencing the same moments in their journeys. And then this beautiful group of young friends. I call them my bag of “skittles” as each bring their own color and flavor and make my world brighter, happier and rewarding. God knew what he was doing when he brought me these young friends. They keep me young! We listen to Christian Rap (at somewhat loud levels) on our mini road trips to North Campus on Sunday nights. But some nights? We shut the music down to a soft worship and we talk about just how good God has been to each of us this past week. And they are always up for adventure!! I love that because in my mind, although the calendar says I’m soon to turn 50? In my heart and mind, I’m still in my 30’s… They want to hike, zip-line, road trip, etc. and I’m all in! Until that morning the church video announcement was for “Run, White & Blue”. The kids started asking “You going to do this with us Momma?!?” Now let me pause here to tell you – I’m NOT a runner! Always wanted to be! Admire and respect those who run! My Facebook page is filled with “Runners” and they inspire me and I think “Soon…someday soon….” My step mother is a runner. Talk about intimidating! I recall a cold winter morning when I opened up my social media and saw pics of the “Hot Chocolate 5k!” I was drinking a hot chocolate…. I was 1/2 way there! (But about as close as I got…) I must’ve had a moment of insanity. Likely when someone said “Oh you can walk, you don’t have to run. I’m going to walk.” So I reluctantly signed up and decided I’d make the most of it. After all? It was for a good cause. Money was going to build homes for the veterans. A group I feel we neglect to honor and serve way too often.
The day before the race arrived I recall thinking “I should probably be doing something runnerish to get ready?!?” But not being a runner, I wasn’t sure what that was?? So I decided rest would probably be best. I went to set my alarm and realized why I wasn’t a runner! We had to be at North at 7am. That meant we had to leave by 6am. That meant I had to be up by ….what?!? 5am?!? Forget that! I’ll throw my hair in a pony tail, shower after and sleep til 5:30!
The alarm went off and I heard it. THUNDER and RAIN!! LOTS of it!! Pouring. Whew! I could just go back to sleep and enjoy this day! But then… the calls started. “We’re still going right?!?” “They’re still having it, right?!?” What?!? So I got up and started to get ready. That’s when I realized I had no idea what to do with my “stuff”. Where do I put my car keys when I’m running?? I had purchased a pair of running pants to at least look the part, they were like a second skin. There was definitely no room for keys in those! What do runners do? Where do they put their stuff? (Note to self: Before doing this again – talk to a runner! Someone who has been there and knows.) As I’m trying to decide what to do with all my junk, the sleepy kiddos start to arrive. Lying on the floor in my hallway, waiting on the last 2 to arrive, they read on FB “Bring ponchos!” Ponchos?!? I didn’t have a poncho…. The two at my apartment were getting anxious, ready to go, but the other 2 were running late. They weren’t going to be here for a bit. Our group split. The 2 on fire went on, I stayed behind to wait on the others.
While waiting for the others to arrive, I had devised plan B. I’d drive them up, sit in the car where it was nice and safe, warm and dry, with all my junk and I didn’t have to look stupid because I knew nothing about running. I could watch the others run their race from afar, be proud, be there when it was over and drive them home. Yep! Sounded like a good plan to me!!
When we got to the race, the kids urged me to get out and join them. They convinced me it would somehow be fun to run in the pouring rain! So out I got. For those of us without ponchos? They were handing out Hefty bags! I tore arm and head holes and put one on the top and leg holes and put one on the bottom. I was the Hefty Bag Woman!! (Any concern of looking stupid or silly – just went out the window!!)
We lined up for the race …. everyone was excited and smiling and as the gun went off? Bursts of color rained down on all of us and we started our race! Some with great speed. Some a bit more cautious. Me? I ran! Like the wind! For about….. 30 yards! OK, no, maybe 20. And then I couldn’t breathe…I started to slow…. and right at that perfect time? I heard one of my dearest friends Judy say “Kris, Hi! Do you want to help me with the kids??” She had her 4 and 6 year old grandsons Elvis and Rio. Of course I’ll help! (Whew! I’m helping so….you know… I can’t run! Looked legit!) Now my friend Judy? She could’ve ran this 5K with no problems. But instead? She walked beside me, talked with me, encouraged me. We talked about how “Next year” we’d do better. We’d get in shape. We’d do this!
We would alternate running and walking in the pouring rain. The kids were laughing and having the best time as we all started to laugh and giggle and splash! Then we’d see Drew. Drew ran the camera nd would be making a video later for the church so when I’d see Drew I’d say “There’s Drew guys! Let’s run!” We ran past drew like a fierce group of warriors who had been running the entire time! (Would look very good for the church folk in the video! Maybe even somewhat impressive!)
We would slow and my heart was pounding and just about the time I wanted to just give up? There would be someone to throw a burst of color on us and urge us to “Keep Going!! You are almost there! Almost to the finish line!!” That encouragement would get me through another 1/4 of a mile…. and finally? There it was! The FINISH LINE!! It was in sight! And when I got there? My young friends who ran the race a bit quicker and finished before me were waiting on me, cheering for me and welcoming me to the party! Oh yes, we had a party at the end of the finish line! We danced and threw more color and laughed! Those “Good for your soul laughs” and spoke of how we were glad it was a rainy day! It had added to the fun of the race! And then? We took the party to the pond where we all jumped in and swam and splashed (and left smelling like fish).
I love when God speaks to me in parables…. this day, on my drive home, he gave me this word: The Christian walk is like this race. Some people watch others on social media and from afar and they are inspired, they want to start running their own race, but they don’t know how. Be that person that helps them get outta the car! Share your story and be their guide. Some are in the middle of a torrential downpour and are afraid to go out in the rain and face the storm so they stay in their car and watch others run and win, and just sit there where they think it’s safe with all their junk. But they miss the adventure. And at the end of the race? Had you stayed in your car with your junk? You wouldn’t have had the journey – wouldn’t have ended up at the finish line with your friends. Some make that choice to start, they feel that stirring in their soul, but they don’t know what to do with all their stuff? Jesus is saying “Give all that extra stuff you don’t know what do with to me! Get outta the car, step into your storm and start your race!” And just like my dear friend Judy, when we run out of air and start to feel faint, he’ll send someone to walk beside us for a bit and encourage us and keep us going. Some of us put on the “fake run” like I did for Drew when we walk into church dressed well wearing a fake smile so no one sees the hurt and weariness in our souls. But God says when you walk into my house? Cast your cares upon me. Lay your burdens down. Don’t be afraid to let others see you hurting so they can pray for you and help you back up. And just like those bursts of color that were sprayed on us when we felt like giving up? God sends those bursts of color on our journey by the way of kind words spoken, random acts of kindness and a hug from a friend. And then, one day, we reach the finish line! And all those who were with us on this race, those bursts of color God used on our journey, they will be waiting for us at the finish line and we will spend eterenity together, with those that crossed the line before us, rejoicing!! (And I’m quite positive – also belly-laughing!) If you haven’t started your race today I encourage you to do so my friend. Sometimes we have to run in the rain, but we are never alone!! And sometimes, it’s in the rain we are closest to God! And then….. we dance in the rain!