Friday, November 28, 2014

Full stomachs. Full hearts.

I cried myself to sleep last night. It was the first time in a while. I wasn’t expecting it but I wasn’t terribly surprised nor upset when the tears started to flow.  As I laid down I knew the tears were mixed with emotions of sadness, gratefulness and joy. A bizarre combination as usually tears are marked solely by sadness, or are distinctly joy based yet, last night produced a plethora of emotion. 
I was overcome with sadness as a beautiful week was coming to an end. For the past four days my apartment has been filled with the laughter and presence of two of my Sonne guys. Lying in bed knowing that I would have to take them to the airport in a few hours was a disheartening feeling. This trip had been in the works for painstakingly slow months, and seemed to whisk by before I could blink. It doesn’t seem fair that I had to wait so long for them to be here only for it to go by so fast. The sadness of saying goodbye to those you love never gets easier. After going two and a half years without seeing someone and saying goodbye unaware of when you will see each other again, is never fun nor easy. 
Yet, attached to my sadness there was gratefulness and not simply because yesterday was Thanksgiving. I was truly grateful to realize I have known one for six and the other for seven years. When we first met they weren’t old enough to drive and now they are discussing life after college and potential career opportunities. I was grateful for all the time we had to talk about the “remember when” stories. It wasn’t just the laughter that paired with the stories or the “how did we get away with that” question that seemed to be attached to so many of the memories. It was the fact that despite time and distance upon being reunited things clicked and felt as if they hadn’t changed a whole lot. In fact, on Tuesday night we walked to the grocery store to get dinner ingredients. The guys requested a meal I had made for them numerous times in the dorm. I was in the kitchen cooking and stepped out to see them on the couch playing video games - it was as if we had stepped back in time, it was an image I had been so familiar with at Sonne and truly treasured. I snapped a picture of them and sent it to a few friends saying, ‘It feels normal. It feels like I am home.” (Don’t worry, they were not being lazy and not helping cook. I refused to let them help me.) 
The whole week brought great joy. The laughter, the old memories, creating new memories, the friendships, all made for an incredible time together. However, the one thing that made me happier than anything else was seeing how much they had let me into their life, and how big of a part they played in mine. Through our experiences together in Germany they opened up and allowed me to be a part of their story, and they will forever be a part of mine. Something that time and distance will never be able to take away from us. 

Thank you guys for coming out. It was a time where it wasn’t just my stomach that was filled, but my heart as well. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014's cold?

There are multiple stand alone buildings on the campus that make up my current school. Therefore, throughout the day it is not uncommon to have to step outside as you are traveling from class to class. When the door opens a gust of cold air sweeps through the halls and reminds everyone inside of how cold it is outside. Being surrounded by teenagers it is not uncommon to hear seemingly constant complaints of the cold weather. I wish I had a dime for every time I heard, “Why wasn’t school cancelled today, it’s so cold!” It doesn’t take long to figure out where this constant state of complaining comes from, turn on the news, look at a newspaper, listen to the radio, the polar vortex freeze and feet of snow being dumped across the country is dominating headlines.

In being blitzed by the constant complaining about cold weather and the barrage of snow that has hit some places one thing stuck out to me: we are all comparing this to normal temperatures at Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving. A time where we pause and give thanks for what we have and what the past year has brought us. Giving thanks.

We complain about the cold, and don’t get me wrong it has been cold, but why is it that the ratio of complaints to thanks is so lopsided? I woke up this morning in a warm apartment, was able to take a warm shower, had my choice between two winter jackets that both keep me plenty warm. I work inside a building that has heat. I am wearing a sweater that keeps me warm during the day. It may be cold, but I don’t want the chill in the air to push me toward complaining. I want the morning frost to remind me of how much I have to be thankful for. Maybe I’m missing something, but I thought Thanksgiving was a time where we reflect and give thanks for what we have. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

One more.

One more. I feel as though I used that phrase a thousand times throughout the year. One more hill. One more lap around the track. One more mile. One more song. One more long run. And now, one more marathon. The knowledge of only having one more is challenging, freeing and inspiring. 
Having one more can be challenging because it usually signals that there have been a number that have preceded it. Whether it is hills, miles, or laps, being left with one more is a recognition of all the work that has just been done. It can leave you bending over with hands on the knees, sucking in air and staring down the final hurdle.
One more is also freeing. Recognizing all the work that has previously been done, you are one away from finishing. One away from being done and being able to completely relax and soak in all the hard work of your achievement. One away from giving your all, and then being able to soak in the freedom of the accomplishment.
One more is inspiring. There is no reason to not work your hardest because it is the last of its kind. Additionally, you don't want to finish on a sour note, you want to have your last one be your best one. Therefore one more stirs up inspiration to give all you can to finish strong.
The mantra of 'one more' has been weighing heavy on my heart as I am now 10 days away from running my fifth marathon of the year. Truthfully I debated for a few days as to whether or not I was going to sign up, but as I did I said that I wanted to do one more this year.
One more marathon this year is a challenging thought to me. Within the past two or three weeks I have significantly felt all the miles I have logged this year (currently just under 1,500). I have had two bouts of a 48 hour flu that basically knocked me off my feet for a few days. I have recently picked up a hamstring niggle that bothers me ever so slightly while running. I have had a great year of running, and the thought of one more is a challenge. I'm tired from all the training, all the early mornings, all the hills, all the speed workouts.
One more marathon is also freeing. When I cross the finish line I know I will have surpassed every running goal I set for the year. Miles accumulated, marathons run, average time of my races were all goals that will be accomplished. Once I take that first step over the finish line, I will be done with training for the year. After 11 months of training, I am looking forward to some time off both physically and mentally. I recognize all the miles I have put into training to prepare my body for Philly, but I also look forward to the fruit of all that hard work as I cross the line.
One more marathon is also inspiring. I love to compete, I love to push myself, I want to test my body and see how far I can push it. With my collegiate alma matter having great success in recent weeks, I have been thinking more about the glory days of playing. There are few things I would want my former teammates and coaches to say about me other than, "He always gave his all. He never quit. Never gave up. Game, practice, relationships, he was completely dedicated and never gave less than his best effort." As I come closer to the start line of this next marathon, I hope I can bring the same attitude to my race. I am inspired to run and run as best as I can. I have yet to settle on a goal time - right now I am debating two different goals: 1. To finish in under 3:18:00 (my average this year is 3:17:17, with my slowest being a 3:22) 2. I am thinking about trying to run my fastest 2nd half of the year (my fastest 13.1-26.2 split in 2014 was 1:40:55, set a month ago in Columbus) As I get closer to race day I will solidify these.
One more. Truthfully, I'm getting really excited and am ready to run. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Time to pick up the pen again

When I first started jotting down notes in a little red notebook, I don’t think I fully believed it would eventually turn into a book. I had the desire to write a book but wasn’t fully sure when or how it would all happen. Over the course of two years I was able to write and publish the book Running Through Life: Reflections From 26.2 Miles.
My original goal was to sell 100 copies. I felt like that wasn’t going to be a guaranteed number I would reach but wasn’t so high I could never reach it. It has been just under two years since the book was published, and I am nearing 400 copies sold. I am blown away. The support, enthusiasm and energy surrounding the book has made for an incredible journey.
Shortly after the book was published people asked, “are you going to write another book?” I would laugh and compare it to running a marathon – you cannot ask someone immediately after a race and ask them whether or not they will run another one. The runner needs time to enjoy their accomplishment and reflect on the whole process, not just the race and then determine whether or not it is something they want to do again. Deep down I always had the thought of writing again but didn’t want to write simply for the sake of writing. I wanted to write when I was ready and when I felt like I had an idea I was passionate about and proud of. I wanted an idea that I felt would inspire and encourage others similar to what you can read here.
One night this past summer I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall back to sleep for a few hours. As I lay in bed I began to ponder writing – in my sleeplessness I felt like there was a flood of ideas bursting with possibility rushing through my head. When I awoke the next morning and actually remembered the majority of my ideas, I felt like I should pursue and see where they led me.
For the past four months I have been doing a lot of research. Reading books, listening to sermons, highlighting articles I have printed out. After months of work my notes are organized, my thoughts are coherent, and it is time to pick up the pen again. I have completed a very rough draft for the first three chapters and have already written just under 10,000 words (RTL is roughly 78,000 words). My goal is to have the book published before I turn 30 – so I basically have 11 months. If it doesn’t happen in that time frame, I am completely fine with that but I recognize I work best when I set goals for myself. Without giving too much away about the book I want to share the vision.

I want to tell the stories of the unnamed characters in the Gospels. In my research I was amazed at how many there were, and I have selected to tell the story of a few of them. I believe that the Holy Spirit prompted Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, to include these individuals in their letters for specific reasons that are meant to change our lives. Their stories are written down for eternity and I believe they have significant things to teach us. If the Holy Spirit did not want to bypass them and disregard their stories neither do I.
During my research and initial stages of writing I have found so much comfort and encouragement from these characters. We may look at Abraham, David, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, as the giants of the Bible. The characters most sermons are focused on. While they certainly have a lot to teach us, the Holy Spirit knows these unnamed characters also have a lot to teach us. I fully recognize I may never attract a crowd like Francis Chan or Matt Chandler can. I know a book I write will never reach as many people as a Max Lucado book or Charles Swindoll. It is easy to view these individuals as the giants of today’s Christian world and to feel inadequate and insignificant compared to them. In the same way the unnamed characters of the Bible are important to God, you and I have equal importance in his eyes. Their stories tell about the footprint they left behind. My story and your story will tell about the footprint our lives leave behind.  The challenging question is, will those footprints point others to Christ?

It’s time to pick up the pen again.