Monday, October 13, 2014

Questioning the Finish: Running for NOE

Feet graced the pavement methodically, resuming the pace that I have come to call my own and the rush of adrenaline coursed through my veins without ceasing.

And I was never tempted to stop. I never stopped.

I didn’t fight the queasiness, the doubting sensations of whether or not I would successfully make it to the finish.

Instead prayers echoed from within the pulsating walls of my heart and I knew, without a doubt in my mind that my God was running for me.

He has used life to teach me in the past that I am, but a vessel. A vessel to speak when words of truth quake within me, a vessel to write when words flood beneath the lead of my pencil, a vessel to run with the cause set before me.

And yes, the heart longs to give, to rebel in the midst of the storm, the heart longs to flee- when the rushing tide tempts to overcome the soul.

But God met me at the starting line that fall day before dawn and he gently whispered, “Welcome Daughter, I am with you and in me, you are victorious.”

So I ran with a knowing that long ago, before I even knew what keeping a pace meant, that God saw me speeding up at the Portland Marathon finish line.

Before I even knew I could, He saw me conquer.

And that is something that we should write on our ever so often-shaky hands,
we were made to conquer.

While you might have never seen yourself in the place that your heart now calls home, He knew.

Nothing has taken, nor will ever take him by surprise.

Yet we fear. We fear our mile 8s, when our body tends to give out, reminding us that we are fragile hearts merely attempting to dream bigger, grasping more grace than our feeble hands can hold, and barely standing on our weak knees.

We renounce victory, we desperately clench to control before things get too far out of our reach.

But God, the God who stands by you at the starting line as you jog in place is the same God at mile 8, who starts cheering you on and runs beside you to keep your pace.

He is the same God whose eyes light up with fierce joy as you fight to finish strong; He is the one who runs to embrace you at the finish.

I rely too much on my own strength. My tendency is tell my heart that enough is enough.

But thankfully, our life does not depend on “our enough.”

Our body does not depend on our strength to run the race that He has called us to run.

You see, we were always chosen for more.
We were always chosen to run…and we were always chosen to conquer.

I don’t want to remain the same anymore.

I don’t want to stand still when God has made me brave enough to move.

I don’t want to let my dreams go to waste and collect dust on a shelf full of worn-out memories.

I don’t want to go life without running a full marathon.

I know I can speak Spanish, so why stay silent?
I know I can love Mexico, so why not settle down and call it home?
I know that I was meant to sing, so why not sing?
I know I can run a half, so what is keeping me from running a full?

Jesus was enough for 13.1 miles and my Spirit rests in the certainty of knowing He will be more than enough for 26.2.

I am done living in fear of the starting line, because God is already waiting for me at the finish.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

My Octobers: Running for NOE

I remember it like it was yesterday.

The shadows beneath my eyes were ever so deep, the fear of never leaving was prevalent and I was consumed with a dream. I longed to walk into my sweet, little home and open its doors to the children that would run up to me screaming "Cristina" in utmost delight. But no matter how hard I tried, this dream remained just that, a dream. 

A fresh graduate out of college, I had to meander my way back into the racks of clothing and attempt to ignore the hold on my heart for a country so foreign to my own. But it wasn't possible, I was stuck. 

While many of my classmates found life after, I felt as though I was waiting for my life to begin. 

So October of 2010, I walked into my mom's office with Sonic and her eyes lit up like she knew a secret. She directed me to the book she was reading and told me to read one particular part in Chapter 12. I followed her direction and found myself joyful, because it was about my Mexico. It was about students. It was about second chances. Breaking down walls. 

Before I could realize what I was doing, I searched for the website, perused it and a couple days later I was filling out the application. 

I couldn't even pronounce the city name. 

I didn't know a soul. 

It wasn't Baja. 

They weren't my sweet children. 

I got accepted with a "FELICIDADES" from a director whose name was just a name to me. And so began the fundraising and the praying that if this was from God, that He would make sure it would work out for HIS GOOD. 

That October quickly turned into a tearful March 22, 2011, a night that I spent telling myself I didn't have to go, it wasn't something that I had to do, I could tell people it just didn't work out, it just wasn't right. But my Mom, she's pretty fearless and she had this knowing about her, that God was going to use this unknown, this awful uncertainty and He was going to show His glory to me. 

Brian Overcast called that night right before I was going to bed and checked-in.

March 23, 2011 I was sitting on the plane with eyes full of tears, millions of questions running around in my head, most of which were questioning my sanity. The question "what on Earth are you doing?" was almost audible. But somehow I stayed on the plane, and I fought the questions as best as I could. I tried to tell myself that this wasn't any different from going to college eight hours away from the ones I knew and loved. 

But it was different, let's just be honest. 

I was moving to a foreign country, where books couldn't be my only company, where I would have to learn to teach and most importantly I would have to learn to speak. 

I was moving to MORELIA, and I couldn't even pronounce it. 
I was moving in with a family that I didn't even know. 

So you remember? That beautiful long-winded story started in October of 2010 and we now find ourselves in October of 2014. Just five days ago, I was again, bombarded with the question "what on Earth are you doing?" 

But instead of a plane, I found myself at the starting line of the Portland Marathon. And sure, I have learned to run over the past couple of years, but 11.5 miles was the most distance I had ever covered. As I stood there waiting for my corral to be called, I couldn't help but try to talk myself out of it, or there was also the thought oh Kristen, just run a little and then walk the rest, it won't matter. 

But then I remembered why I was running. 

Students started showing up in my mind, moments from my three years at NOE started playing on my heart's movie reel and I became sure that I was going to run and I was going to finish. 

I got teary-eyed midway, because I remembered my reason for running and I could feel God's presence with me. 

Mile 8 was my problem-child the last few distance runs I did in Morelia and I was incredibly afraid that I would lose my pace or I would get sick, so I thought about starting to walk. But then I renounced that idea and I declared that I was going to keep running. I declared victory in Jesus and I started to see myself crossing the finish-line, before I had even arrived. 

Mile 8 turned into mile 10 before I could even realize it and then I knew with all that was within me, that I would be able to finish. A 5K seemed like a breeze compared to the ten miles I had already completed. 

I started hearing the cheers and people of all ages were telling me the finish was just around the corner…so I took a deep breath and I decided that I wouldn't slow down, but that I would speed up for the finish.  

I ran my first half in 2 hours and 5 minutes. I ran it all without any walking. 

It was the first time for such a long distance and the first time I have ever run without walking. 

I was able, because my God is able. 

I was brave enough, because God makes me brave. 

And just like October of 2010, God reminded me that the most beautiful moments in our lives are the ones where we question "What on Earth are we doing?" Because those are the moments when we unclench our controlling fists and let Him have His way in us. Those are the moments that He gently shows us are much better than our detailed plans.