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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

6 Months To Live

The morning, crazy; my patience, shortened. Since opening the office door the phone had not stopped ringing. A Monday morning in which one longs for the weekend just passed.
My phone rings, I answer it and a man on the other end is asking me for directions to our office. I relay the simple instructions and find myself annoyed as he repeats every single word. My impatient self wonders if his Google Maps is broken.

A short time later he walks in the office. He hands me a set of blueprints. I take them from him, scan them into our system and hand them back to him. About to send him on his way, he sits down in the chair across from my desk. I glance at the lunch sitting on my desk knowing it will now have to wait.

The man leans back into the chair and tells me about the difficulty of his customer who is building the project from the blueprints I just scanned.

"Every day is a gift you know. It's just that some gifts are better than others," he says with a smile.

Laughing, I answer him, "One never knows what God has planned for us each day."

Immediately I am convicted. God had given me this day and I was thanking Him with a short temper, little patience and with anything but a servant's heart. Hadn't Pastor Dave just encouraged us to be a servant in the weekend's message? Where was my servant's heart?

"When I have difficult customers like this I wonder why I don't retire." He shakes his head and rubs his left brow. "But I know the Lord's not done with me yet."

I smile and reply, "When I have difficult days, I ask Jesus if now would be a good time for Him to come back." We both laugh.

The laughter fades from his eyes and he says, "May I share a poem with you?"

Taken aback as I had not expected this, I nod giving him permission.

He softly speaks the verse of a child asking his father to mend a broken toy. The father carefully, slowly and diligently works on the brokenness. The child grows impatient; snatching the toy from the father's hands. When the child questions the father as to why it took him so long to fix his toy, the father lovingly replies, "My child you never truly let it go."

With intent focus the man looks me in the eye, "I feel strongly compelled to share that poem with you. I do not know what is broken in your life, but lay it at the feet of Jesus and let Him fix it for you."

Words escape me as I hold his gaze. That very morning I asked God to reveal to me any hindrances I have in my faith. What is broken that God is working on mending in my life? I am shaken as I feel God is talking to me directly through this man.

He leans forward in the chair, "I was given 6 months to a year to live."

He pauses. In that brief moment of pause I am stunned. Had I not but a few minutes ago been annoyed at his interruption of my busy morning?  His words humble me and I feel ashamed.

He draws a breath and finishes, "That was 16 years ago. Every day is a gift."

In silence I sit as he tells me of his fight. He tells of his treatment and the toll it took. He speaks of God's faithfulness. Emotion rolls down his cheek as he recalls marrying his wife 8 weeks after his diagnosis.

          Dropping her off on her doorstep after a date in town, he kissed her goodnight. It had been 2 weeks since hearing the doctor's prognosis and his entire future seems uncertain. He pulls away from her and begins to walk away.

        "Damn you Terry." He stops cold; never before had he heard such language come from her mouth. He turns to face her, unable to hide the shock he feels.

        "Do you not realize I would rather spend 6 months as your wife, than a lifetime as your friend?" He bent down on his knee and proposed that very moment. They were married 6 weeks later.

He pauses to gain composure. Terry smiles and says, "She has been my wife and my friend for 16 years now. What blessings God does give."

The office door opens as two men walk in. Terry stands to leave. "Well I should get going now."

I stand; Terry turns back to face me. "Every day I start my day with devotions and when I pray I ask God to make me a blessing to someone." Tears flow, he does not wipe them away. "Today, you have been a blessing to me. Thank you."

Walking around my desk, I give Terry a hug. "No Terry, today you were a blessing to me." He walks out the door.

Wiping the tears from my eyes, I sit at my desk in silence as I watch him drive away. There are words that move you and there are words that can stir your very soul. My soul stirs within me making me aware it is God who spoke today.

I approach the throne with fear and trembling steeped in tremendous peace. I am sitting in a seat of uneasiness as it is a seat of correction. What is God trying to tell me? Of this I am uncertain, yet I know it is loving. Most certainly I am convinced that God spoke to me today and He did so through a man named Terry.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Trails, Snakes and Vacation

The sun is hot, the humidity bearable; even for a moss-encrusted Washingtonian like me.   I could feel the wetness of our summer back home drying out as I ran the trail in central Oregon.   Sunshine feeling good on my skin.

Standing at the top of the switchbacks, I pause to look at the vista before me.  A few homes carve themselves into the cliff’s rock, which stand above the Deschutes River.  I leave the top of the canyon and make my way down.  The high desert sand and rock feel different under my feet.  Several hundred feet later I am running alongside the river.

Squiggle lines in the dusty trail tell me snakes are part of the landscape.  Grateful the early morning is too cool for the rattlers to be sun bathing, I thank God and ask Him to keep the snakes hidden.  A quail stares at me as I run by.   River water falls over large boulders changing the sound of peacefulness. 

The trail no longer drops and the lazy current of the Deschutes returns.  A deer nibbles on the leaves from a low laying branch of a tree.   He doesn’t move as I run by despite me coming within 3 feet of it.   Majestic.

3000 feet of elevation makes my body struggle to breathe.  Leaving the river I must make my way out of the canyon.  The trail’s steep climb, mixed with the elevation, burn my lungs as I try and run up the trail.  The craziness of running this portion sinks in and I walk my way to the top.  A startled jackrabbit takes off at a speed that makes me jealous.

A bike path waits for me once the trail meets the road.  I follow it across the highway to the backside of a golf resort nestled in a rather tall butte.  Once I reach the top, I turn around to capture the view.  The rising sun glistens on the city below.  It’s beauty is breath-taking. 

Leaving the barrenness of the high desert landscape, the path leads me into a neighborhood of beautiful homes and well manicured lawns.  Though the weather is warm, I see no one enjoying morning coffee on their patio.  Such incredible outdoor living spaces and no one is enjoying them. How often I do this in my own life? 
I find a main road and decide to turn toward my home for the week.  My first run on vacation brought me views I would not have experienced inside a car.  A tough 7 miles coupled with beautiful scenery has left me feeling rejuvenated. 
Quietly I open the front door to find the household awake.  The smell of freshly brewed coffee greets me; my mother in law hands me a cup.   Taking a banana from the counter and with coffee cup in hand, I head out to the patio.  My mother in law follows.  We sit and enjoy the simplicity of the morning, taking nothing for granted but the pleasure of each other’s company.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Carol King's Story

Carol stood at the starting line of the St. Jude’s Memphis Marathon alone; this no different than how she lived most her life.  It took years before being alone no longer felt lonely.   Her nerves somersaulted inside her.  Self-doubt crept in; perching itself on her shoulder whispering it’s all too familiar haunts.  She shook it off.  Not today.   Today was her day.

The horn blew and the sea of people ebbed forward.  Carol began running her first marathon.  The nerves she felt moments before lost their potency in the familiar and rhythmic steps of her running.  Comfort surrounded her as she found her pace.

Becoming a runner was something Carol never thought she would do.  Running was for athletic people – fit people – not women in their 40s, with weight to lose and had spent a life far away from sports.  The image of her beloved grandmother comes to mind as she recalls a private moment between them.  Carol, the youngest of three children, was a young child when she learned the truth about her birth.  Life was not easy and a third child to feed was not ideal.  Carol’s mother was not happy about the third pregnancy and tried to conceal it.   Carol felt the harshness in the reality of her grandmother’s words and vowed to never be a burden to anyone, never to ask for anything including the playing of sports in school.  An innocent conversation between a grandmother and granddaughter solidified walls Carol spent decades living behind.  Bricks of “don’t ask for anything”, “take care of yourself”, and “be self-sufficient at all costs” were mortared into the walls around her heart with a thick layer of doubt and low self-esteem.

“Walking In Memphis” plays on Carol’s iPod and pushes the memory from her mind.     She is running the streets, not walking them.  She loves the irony.  The route is peppered with bands all feeding her energy as she passes by.   Mile 10 a woman runs next to her, struggling to finish the half marathon.  Carol encourages her, telling her “You got this.  You can do it.”

These are not empty words of encouragement.  This is truth spoken from lessons learned after hard earned victories.   One of Carol’s first victories came at the end of a training run.  Brand new to running, she had just run 20 minutes without walking for the first time in her life.   The realization of what she just accomplished overwhelmed her, Carol is amazed at what she just learned she is capable of.  In the middle of the park’s path she breaks down and cries; each tear stripping away deep seeded self doubt.  

The woman listens to Carol’s encouragement and forges forward.  Two miles later they part ways as the half marathon route turns and the full marathon runners continue forward.  Here the runners greatly thin out.    With less people around, Carol realizes how few people run 26.2 miles.    Something happens within her.  Instead of feeling out of place with this realization, it strengthens her determination.  A lonely road did not scare her, it empowered her.

Miles were clicking by and an old injury began to flare up.  Exhaustion coupled with pain can weaken the strongest of resolve.  Carol does not want to quit.  She looks up at the apartment building she passes.  Above the street on a private balcony a young girl waves at her.  The girl’s smile gives Carol motivation.  There would be no giving up.  Carol pushes herself forward to show that little girl on the balcony and to prove to the little girl sitting across from her grandmother so many years ago, that there is no limit to the greatness within each of us. 

A sign reads ‘Mile 20’.  Carol is now running the final miles of the marathon.  These are the toughest miles and her injury adds to the difficulty.    Seeing Carol’s pain, a stranger runs alongside her and offers her some Advil.  In desperation she accepts.    This injury would not be what stops her.  She had come too far, she had too much to prove.

Standing in their kitchen, full of excitement after walking in a local race with a friend, Carol told her husband of her plans to run the half marathon the following year.  A terrifying goal for someone who had never run before, yet she could not deny the spark of desire she felt.  He looked at her and sneered, “Yeah.  Right.”  The spark had now became a flame.

To run the marathon had been her decision, her goal and it gave her tremendous purpose.  He tried to feed her self-doubt. Years of haircuts and hair colors, diets and exercise plans all failed to make him love her more than each of his passing girlfriends.  He knew how to make her feel worthless.  Yet, she continued to train.   Running was giving something back to her.    It was chipping away at the walls she hid behind.

Mile 21, 22…the bricks kept coming down.  Her whole life she believed in the fallacy of the smile she wore.  The marathon stripped her of that smile and showed her it was ok to struggle.  The marathon was showing her the struggle is what makes you stronger; it lays a foundation of greater strength than the bricks of self-doubt she’d always known.

Mile 23, 24…Carol reflected on the changes running has given her.  She remembers those first months of running.  Afraid of anyone seeing her, Carol’s running took place well into the night.  If anyone saw her, she felt surely they would laugh at her.  After all she wasn’t a real runner; she was an overweight housewife completely dead on the inside.  Real runners are fast and svelte and athletic and happy.  Carol is no longer the woman hiding in the cover of night.   She runs in the daylight through the park she loves.  Bags of clothes - now several sizes too big - were donated to charity and at 40 years old her training has made her an athlete.  She no longer needs the anti-depressants that sustained her.  Carol knows, even now at mile 24 with a body tired and wanting to quit, she is happier than she has ever been.  Running has given Carol herself.

Completing Mile 25 brings comfort knowing she is now in the final mile of the marathon.    Her determination to finish pushes away her pain.  Carol puts one foot in front of the other.  Each footstep taking her farther away from the woman she once was.  She runs from 20 years of infidelity and pain, 20 years of not being good enough.   She runs from the divorce he told her of.  She runs from the sad and scared child sitting across from her grandmother.

The final 385 yards lay ahead of her. Carol runs toward the finish line.  Each step drawing her closer to the woman she has become; a woman who proved to herself she owns a strength she hadn't dreamt capable.  Carol became a woman who came out from behind the walls confining her and began living in the world of possibility.  She had given herself a goal and she was achieving it.  In doing so, Carol has given herself one of life's greatest gifts, the gift of confidence.

The end is in sight.  Her friend Debby is waiting.  Carol runs across the finish line and collapses into the arms of her friend. Carol weeps.  She cries because the person she once was is gone forever.  She cries for the new woman born out on the marathon course that day.  Carol cries for her birth into a new life.  A life she was meant to live.