Last week I did something totally against character. Actually? Several things:
First? I got up early one day before preschool. The "getting up early" really isn't much of a surprise … my children are usually up between 6:30-7:30. I guess I should say I woke up early before preschool. I had my coffe, I got the children fed and dressed, I made breakfast for myself and John, got on my running clothes and then? I loaded up the kids in the jogging stroller and walked the half a mile to Syd's preschool to drop her off. AND THEN? Instead of schlepping to the coffee shop with Elijah, I turned in the other direction and RAN.
Ran/walked is more like it BUT STILL. I WENT RUNNING.
Guys? It was hot. Like 90 degrees. I am totally and completely out of shape. And I was pushing a stroller. At first I was feeling pretty ok. Like a gazelle! I imagined myself running down the street like a professional in one of those slow-mo commercials.
After a while I realized that I was running the first half of my run downhill. Which meant that I'd have to run the second half of my run? Uphill.
Somewhere around the beginning of mile 2 I started uncontrollably moaning and groaning. Thankfully the street around me was abandoned. Well, except for the cars going by. Let's just hope they had their windows up. Because I'm sure the look on my face was horrifying enough. Meanwhile my son looked up through the window in the sunshade of the stroller and smiled. He was such a champ, even though I'm sure he's going to need therapy one day after what he witnessed through that plastic viewfinder. Oops.
It was really hard. It was probably really ugly. I wanted to quit many times. I had sweat pouring down my face and was just praying and praying that my Nike+ app would just hurry up and say "3 miles completed" so I could let myself off the hook and walk already. And then I decided to run to that set of trees up there and started begging those trees to hurry up and get to me, oh MY WORD.
All of this is really hard for me to admit. Because once? I was a runner. It was easy for me. I just put on my shoes and ran out the door with my discman (Yes! I am old enough to have run with a discman once!). I loved pushing myself harder, running one more mile. I looked forward to getting outside and pounding out whatever stress I had going on in my mind on the ground. I didn't focus so much on how hard it was to breathe then. How hard my heart was pounding. How freaking hot it was. How I never, ever have any time to just get out and have my own thoughts to myself for a while. I ran 5Ks. I ran 10Ks! I even ran a half marathon!!
As I've said before, I am starting over. And re-starting my life as a runner is really, really hard.
The thing that kept me going as I was running was this: I am training for a half marathon (in Jan) and a full marathon (in March) with Team World Vision. I explain why I am running in a lot of detail here. I am talking about this here on my website because running is something that is really challenging for me right now and lately? I'm not prone to do anything that doesn't come easy. I mean, come on! Raising two children and keeping a marriage healthy and running a household is A LOT of challenge to deal with!
Well, WHY? WHY MANDA WHY?!
What kept me going on my run is this: There is a mother in Africa who not only has to deal with the challenges of raising children and keeping a marriage healthy and running a household; she also has to deal with the fact that the basic needs of her family – food, water, shelter for instance – are not being met. Our family currently sponsors two boys who live in Africa. One we sponsor through Compassion, and his name is Peter Paulo. We have sponsored him for four years. The other boy we sponsor (through World Vision) is called Kareman and we just began sponsoring him a few months ago. Peter is 11 years old and Kareman is 12 years old.
I think when a lot of people think about child sponsorship they think about Sally Struthers and the incredibly sad infomercials you sometimes see on television. They wonder if child sponsorship is a scam, if there are people out there writing letters from children who do not exist and keeping the money that gullible saps send in for themselves. I know this because I used to be one of the people who thought like that. I would change the channel and scoff. I don't LIKE that in my FACE.
But the truth is that there are a lot of hurting people out there. Everywhere. And if it was me and I needed help and someone turned their face and looked away that would really suck. It would really hurt. Even though I have done it when I think about it … that haunts me. If I have help to give, shouldn't I at least try?
Here is something the Bible says that pierces me through and through every time I read it:
Freely you have received; freely give. Matthew 10:8
In context this verse is talking about grace that has been received. I live an abundant life. My children were born healthy in hospitals where I received expert medical care. Our cabinets burst forth with food. I turn on a faucet in my kitchen, in my bathrooms, in the back yard or front yard and clean, drinkable water shoots out with no apology. I flush it down my toilet. I drain it from the bathtub daily after I wash my children in it. I flip a button in my garage and my clothes are washed with gallons and gallons of it. Even as I pushed my stroller and heaved and sighed with the pain of running in the heat I had one finger on a cold bottle of water that I was saving for a reward as I toiled for mere exercise. This is grace in my life. I don't deserve the life of priviledge that I have. And if I do nothing with it to help another person? Then I really, REALLY don't deserve it.
And so as I ran the other day I thought of the mothers of the two boys that we sponsor. One in Tanzania, one in Kenya. I thought of the miles they might have to walk to get to a water source that is not even clean. I thought of their children receiving an education. I thought about the other children they might have, the husband, the fight they fight every day to keep everyone together. I thought about faces on a website or a table somewhere and what it might be like if my child was one of those faces and what it might feel like to have all my hopes and dreams for my child wrapped up in the hope that somewhere someone might choose to sponsor my child.
And so that leads to me. Freely I have received. Freely I will give.
I will keep running.