The World Through My Shoes is my look at living this incredible gift God has given us. As a busy wife, mother and daughter I relish the alone time I receive on my early morning runs. It is in the stillness of those predawn mornings where I often am inspired. Thank you for taking the time to read my words.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Scattering Smile Seeds

Her wisdom showed in her aged blue eyes.  Laugh lines erased the smoothness of youth from her face.

"When my husband told me he was coming here, I told him I just had to come along so I could visit with you.  I hope that's ok."  Her face lit up with a smile. 

I glanced down at the stack of papers needing my attention, waved her in and said, "Of course!" 

She sat down in the chair across from my desk while her husband disappeared into the office of a designer to discuss the new home they were building.

A few weeks previous they stopped by the office to start the preliminary workings on their new home.  Our conversation kept light; musings about the weather, children and the such.  Not much stood out from the conversation except one thing - her parting comment to me.  Hugs are free and she asked for one; when I obliged she thanked me for my smile as it made her day.

A smile made her day?  A simple gesture made that much of a difference?

Does she know about my daily struggles, my concerns or the focus of my daily prayers?  No.  Does she know about the worries I carry as a wife and mother or the stresses of my full time job?  No.  What she did know is I smiled at her.  In a world where people walk with their faces down staring into their smart phones, I looked at her and smiled.

And it made all the difference. 

The thought blew a cobweb off a memory created in high school.  The entire school met in the chapel for a more-than-standard assembly.  Time has erased the purpose of the meeting, but engraved in my memory was a real life story told by a teacher.  Standing in front of the school, the teacher relayed to us the enthusiasm a student had one day when running into her classroom after the dismissal bell.  With excitement, the student told her someone had smiled at them that day.  One person smiled and the single and simple gesture had given them something they never receive.  I was dumbstruck and my mind raced to think who could this possibly be?  Who walked these halls daily and not ever see a smile from anyone?  To this day, 25 years later, I still don't know the answer to the question and it haunts me. 

A smile makes a difference.  A smile is easy to do and is powerful beyond measure.  One may never know the impact this small act can make on the life of another. 

How about tonight when you come home from work, you put a big smile on your face when you greet those you live with?  Or smile at the checker and say 'thank you' as she hands you your receipt?  Or turn and smile at the person standing in line behind you?

When we smile we give much more than a curved line on our face; often, a smile is returned.  It is when the person smiles back, you know they can not smile and carry worry in the same expression.  Those are the seconds when you take their burden from them and give them a brief moment of rest.  And you realize it feels good.

Before leaving my office today, she hugs me and says, "Thank you for scattering smile seeds."

Scatter seeds my friends.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

19 Miles of Random

Lake Padden is beautiful; its glass like smoothness broken only by the fishing line being tossed in by lakeside fishermen.  Every opening along the front side of the lake is filled with men, fishing poles and hopes of catching a fish. 

My watch reads 6:12 a.m. as I begin my adventure of 7 1/2 laps around the lake.  With the sun in the sky and the shade of the trees lining the trail, the 19 miles would be beautiful.  Unsure if I had prepared myself enough mentally, I hit the start button of my watch and begin. 

To say a distance runner has random thoughts is as common as mosquitoes in August.  Below I offer you a look into my thinking while the miles get long.  At first you may find them strange but at the end of 19 miles you too may find they make sense and then in a moment of clarity that will scare you.   

Lap 1 and 1/4
Knowing I would have a half lap to do at the end of the route I opted to get a quarter of it out of the way first.  Besides, it was flat and I would need all the flat miles I could get. I head out a bit and then turn around beginning my first full lap around the lake. My legs feel stiff.

Fishermen are everywhere, but silent.  No one speaks, telling me the women are at home.

A grandfather is there with his granddaughter who looks to be 4 years old.  She stands on the side of the trail and stares at me.  I smile.  She stares.

The biggest hill looms ahead and I hit it with a twinge of dread knowing I would hit it again 6 more times.  SIX MORE TIMES.  What was I thinking?  The top of the hill allows me to catch my breath a bit before tackling several more hills.  These are rolling hills taking me up the hillside.  The uphill is broken with a downhill and my legs are now fully awake. 

It is peaceful and quiet and the birds are singing.  There are no fisherman as getting to the lake is impossible.  I am alone in the quiet.  I see the mile marker up ahead, my clue the uphill is now over and a final downhill will bring me back to the edge of the lake and the flatter part of the trail.

Lap 2

One down and two to go before my girlfriend Karen will join me for a lap.  I check my watch, I am right on time.

There's the granddaughter.  I wave this time.  She stares.

A large group of fisherman are standing in a boat loading area.  Several of them are talking and smoking.  Their poles being propped up against a rock while the fishing line dangles in the water.  Am I mistaken but isn't the object of fishing to actually fish?  Shouldn't they at least be holding the pole?

The big hill is there waiting for me.  I swing my arms to propel me forward and I crest that baby.  That wasn't so bad.  The hills roll and I run up and down each of them until I see the mile marker firmly planted at the top of the final hill.  Maybe I should high-five it when I get there.  At the top of the hill I look at it and smile, somehow this makes more sense.

Occasionally I pass another runner or walker.  All say "Good morning" or nod a hello.  One guy runs past me like I was standing still.  He's definitely not running 19 miles today.

Lap 3

Last lap before Karen joins me.  I got this one.  Last lap.  Karen.  I should take a GU.  I open the GU pack and consume it over the next mile.  

The granddaughter is now sitting in her little camp chair.  She sees me coming and turns to look at me.  I smile and wave.  The corners of her mouth go up.  Was that a smile?  Or was that a smirk because she was sitting and I was not.  She needs manners.  Wait, it could have been a smile.

The trail meanders alongside the lake and I gaze at the views it affords me.   Beautiful.

Running by the smoking fisherman some stop to watch me as they realize they have now seen me three times.  None speak, they just stare at me with blank expressions.  I refrain from telling them to put down the cigarettes and pick up the pole.

The Big Hill.  You ain't got nothin' on me.  I pump my arms and repeat "Thrive".  On the downside I repeat "flow" picturing a rushing stream carving it's way down a hillside.  Two fisherman walk past me and say "Good Morning".  I wonder what they are doing on this side of the lake as they are unable to get to the water.  Newbies.

I Thrive and Flow each hill.  The Final Mile Marker stands at attention and I charge up the hill after it.  The quicker I get this over, the sooner I get to Karen who I know is waiting for me at the picnic shelter.  My legs feel pretty good.

Finishing the lap, Karen is waiting while the rest of our running group cheers me on.  With only 8 miles to run, they will be joining me on my final 3 laps.

Lap 4

Karen and I begin our lap and immediately fall into conversation.  With only 1 lap together we quickly fill each other in on who did what, who went where and what happened to whoever. 

Granddaughter?  Smoking fisherman?  The Big Hill?  Did we go there yet?  What do you mean the lap is over with already? 

Lap 5

Karen heads for home, the running group heads out.  A large group of us now make our way down the trail and talk about everything and nothing.  The pace is easy as it is used as a warm up lap for everyone.  I am grateful they need to warm up.

Arlane, Brad and I fall in line together and hit The Big Hill while being whisked away to Paris.  Brad is going to France in June and asking Arlane about her trip she took last year.  I picture the open markets, sidewalk cafes and the city running they discuss. 

Two laps to go, two laps to go.  The Final Mile Marker.  Thank you Jesus. 

Lap 6

We are on the flat part of the trail and I am trying to convince myself I am not tired.  13+ miles of hills is starting to get to my head. 

The Granddaughter left.  When did that happen?

The Smoking Fisherman are fewer as the rising sun doesn't do well for fishing on the lake.  They weren't fishing.  They were smoking.

The Big Hill laughed.  I heard it.  At the top Arlane and Brad take off for two miles at a faster pace as prescribed by coach.  They ask me if I am going to speed up.  I try.  I don't.  They pull away.  What's the uphill word again?  

Thrive.  Am I thriving?  I don't think I'm thriving. Thrive. I hurt.  Pump.  Those.  Arms. 

The fisherman who had come to the backside of the lake learned they couldn't get to the water and were making their way back towards the other side of the lake.  I came up behind them too tired to announce my arrival.  One turns and upon seeing me yells, "Jogger!" as an annoucement to his buddy to move over. 

Jogger?  I want to punch you in the face.  Does a jogger run 19 hilly miles before breakfast?  In one fluid motion I karate chopped his head off.  I thanked them for scooting over.  You can guess which of those last two sentences are true.

The Final Mile Marker.  Why aren't I happy?  It stands at the top and taunts me.  Maybe I don't want to come get you.  I don't like you.

Now descending, I am telling my legs they have only one more lap to go.

Lap 7

Final lap.  Less than 3 miles to go. Arlane had stopped and now behind me, pushed her pace to catch up to me.  She decides to keep me company.  I feel like a turtle.

The Big Hill.  Goodbye.  Won't see you again today.

5,000 feet up, 5,000 feet down and I am feeling every inch of it.  Thrive. Flow.  Thrive. Flow.  Almost done.

The Final Mile Marker still standing there waiting for me.  Goodbye.  The downhill no longer feels like a downhill.  Do I have legs?

The picnic shelter waits for us.  Arlane asks me how much I have left.  I tell her I am done.  She knows better.  A quarter of a mile.  I am done.  She tells me mentally it will be good to run it.  I can't think.  I am done.  We stop and get water with the group that has finished already.  They can't believe I did 19 miles on that course.  I am unsure of my sanity.

Everyone is milling about hydrating and talking.  I am spent.  I look at my watch.  A quarter mile short.  Who cares.  We talk.  I look at my watch.  Dang it.  I care.  Amidst eveyone talking I quietly slip out.

I press start on my watch and go get that last quarter mile.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Bird Sings

The lop-sided moon hangs just above the cherry tree in the morning sky.  Night clouds are scattering revealing a hint of promising blue skies.  The thermometer reads 41°.  I tuck my hands into my long sleeves.

Heaviness in my legs remind me I am in the greatest part of my marathon training.  40 mile weeks tend to do that to me.  Despite it all, the running feels good.  My pace is easy as I make my way through the sleeping neighborhood.

My heart is weighted for friends I know are broken and hurting.  I ask God some specific things and thank Him for being bigger than it all.  The birds sing joy and I listen; their song getting louder as I approach the densely tree lined roadway.  A motorist drives by and waves.

A farm hand is singing a Spanish melody.  I quickly conclude the song is well loved as his voice loudly spills from the slightly ajar windows of the milking parlor.  The smile on my face can not be hidden as I question if he realizes his audience is greater than the bovine standing before him in the barn.  I wonder what the song is about.

Freshly cut hay rests in neatly lined rows in the field.  With no threat of rain in the sky, the farmer seems content to let it lie just a day longer.  Patches of hay stand uncut as a reminder a wet spring leaves sections too muddy to mow.

Nearing the end of my run, I spot a finch perched on a barbwire fence.  The bird eyes me carefully but does not move though I am just inches from her.  She chirps at me as if to say "Good morning" before taking flight. I watch the freedom in her flying.

The moon has faded and the sun is rising as I finish my run.  The day lays in front of me with unopened promises.  My heart still heavy for my hurting friends, but starting my day in nature has given me renewed breath on a new day; a day in which the birds are heard singing.