Warm Buses

There’s nothing like the hope of a warm bus when you’re standing in the freezing cold. I’ve spent a lot of time waiting for warm buses over the past few weeks and let me tell you, when you know a warm bus is coming you can put up with a lot of pain.

For the past month Portland, Oregon has had an unusual amount of snow and ice storms and I am the first to confess that I will not drive under such conditions. It is for my own safety and the safety of everyone else on the road that I decline my licensed freedom and submit to the public transportation system as well as the kindness of friends.

But given the state of Portland’s roads, the bus schedules have been inconsistent leaving me standing in the freezing cold waiting for a warm bus. Sometimes that wait is only ten minutes so as long as I keep my hands gloved and in my pockets by the time the bus shows up I’m none the worse for the wait.

But sometimes the bus is running late and I’ll find myself standing at the stop for 20-30 minutes.

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A photo I took while waiting for a MUCH delayed bus. Brrrrr……

However, on one particularly cold evening my wait was an excruciating 41 minutes. After about 8 minutes of repeatedly checking the estimated arrival time on my phone app I decided to use my time more productively. I begin to think about others who are caught in the same cold. How many homeless are sleeping in this right now? How many are taking the bus home too? How many are walking in the cold because they can’t afford the bus. The bus, for some, is a luxury.

But I realized that I couldn’t totally empathize with everyone out in the cold. Some would have a warm bus, taxi, or friend to come pick them up. But some wouldn’t. Some would have a warm home, apartment, or shelter to go to. But some wouldn’t. I had both a warm bus coming and a warm home it would take me to.

I wondered, as I felt the skin on my legs go numb and the cold wind slowly creep through the back of my coat, what is keeping them going? I was barely making it after 20 minutes in the below freezing temperature and many would be in it for hours and even days. And then I wondered what was keeping me going? Why hadn’t I broken down crying over my uncomfortable wait?

It’s because I knew a warm bus was coming. (Twenty-one more minutes to go according to my app…) I was able to endure because I had Hope that my experience in the freezing cold would be over soon.

Oh the power of Hope.

Eventually my thoughts turned to prayers, and those prayers were not just for those struggling without warmth, but I prayed also for those struggling without Hope. Whether that Hope was shelter, Love, God, or the eternal Hope of Heaven I prayed that they would all have their own warm bus that would give them the strength to endure the deep freeze of life. Because, like I said before, when you know a warm bus is coming you can put up with a lot of pain.

And I pray you all have a warm bus you’re waiting for as well.

 

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Hope and a Hood

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Eleven years ago as a freshman at Multnomah University I sat in in the sanctuary of City Bible Church in Portland, Oregon and watched my very first College Graduation. I was eager to get a glimpse of what life would look like in four years when I walked across the stage and received my own diploma.

I sat there in that sanctuary a broken but hopeful girl. A girl who just started her first semester in College. A girl who a year prior barely felt worthy to apply for College, let alone attend. A girl whose family was in turmoil back home. A girl who suffered from panic attacks. A girl who didn’t trust anyone. A girl who didn’t think she was smart enough to make it through College. A girl who had a hard time believing she could be anything other than a janitor for the Lord.

As I heard the requirements read off for the Bachelor’s degree that was being conferred, and I watched my classmates and friends walk across that stage to receive their degree my eyes welled up. “Lord, could that really be me someday?” I said it as more of a revelation than a question. I knew that was why He had called me to College so I set my sights on meeting those requirements and walking across that stage. I felt energized and ready to tackle the next four years!

I may have been broken, but I was very hopeful.

After the College graduates received their degree and were seated the graduates from the Seminary stood up to receive their Master’s degree and their hood. Since I had never even seen a college graduation a Master’s ceremony was extremely foreign to me.

I sat in wonder as the requirements for the Master’s degree were read and the Seminary students made their way to the stage. I watched as each one was adorned with their Master’s hood before walking on to receive their degree. And at that moment the energy I already felt after the college graduates walked across that stage increased.

Part of me had a hard time believing that I was even going to make it through the Bachelors program let alone go on to get my Master’s degree, and yet deep down that’s what I wanted. I imagined that if I made it that far then perhaps I would be a strong and confident woman. Perhaps I wouldn’t live my life in fear anymore. Perhaps there would be new adventures that He would take me on. Perhaps I’d do even greater things for the Lord.

Two weeks from today I’m going to be sitting in the Sanctuary at Rolling Hills Church in Tualatin, Oregon awaiting a moment that I hoped beyond all hope for. A moment I had to walk through great personal challenges to experience. A moment that came from years of papers and books and classroom discussions and mind-blowing revelations that can only happen when you’re forced to dig deep in your studies. A moment I almost bailed on a half a dozen times. A moment I trained for. A moment I wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been for many supportive friends and family members. A moment I have because I fixed my eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. A moment I have because I followed the Lord all the way to Portland and, more importantly, clung to Him through every valley of death, every refining fire, and every mountain top experience.

Thank you to my family for supporting me, whether near or far, and always believing in me. Thank you to the friends who have made my journey light and my troubles seem momentary. Thank you to those who have also walked with me through fire and reminded me of truth. Thank you to my professors who challenged my views of the world and of Scripture and always pointed me back to Christ. Thank you to the churches I was blessed to be involved in ministry at, or that I simply joined in fellowship with. Thank you to everyone I worked with in Admissions – you all taught me how to grow up and have a big girl job. Thank you to the College and Graduate Students I’ve been blessed to minister to and work with over the past few years – especially those of you who have become friends and even family. Thanks to the Post Office for employing me for a total of 6 years during my time at Multnomah. (Hahahaha!) And thank you to Multnomah University for being a huge conduit of the Lord’s refinement and grace in my life. Wow. Who knew that a phone call letting me know that I was accepted to college would so shape my life. Thanks for the call Melody! And thank you Lord for all of this and more. Your mercies really are new every morning and great is your faithfulness.

As I write this I still have no idea where this adventure is going to lead…but if the next season is anything like the adventures of this past season then bring it on! God is good and faithful, and I know that He who began this work in me will only ever be faithful to complete it.

“Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
The Lord reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord.”

Psalm 146 (NIV)

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Allons-y!!!

Allons-y is French for “Let’s Go.”
It’s also a Doctor Who catch-phrase.
It’s also the phrase that the Lord used to revitalize me.

“Allons-y!”

I went home to California for Christmas this year and came back to Portland with an interest in Doctor Who. So I began watching it. A lot. And because my homework load was light at the beginning of the semester I had time.

Something you must know about this show before I proceed is that the main character, The Doctor, never really dies. In fact 12 different actors have performed him thus far each showing a different side or personality of one very old man. You see, the Doctor doesn’t really die. When he sustains a mortal wound his body “regenerates” sluffing off the man he had been and becoming a new man. That’s why you’ll hear people refer to their “favorite Doctors”. My favorite is #10, played by David Tennant. He’s also the Doctor who was known for the catchphrase “Allons-y!”

Doctor's #9, #10 and #11 with each of their catch-phrases.

Doctor’s #9, #10 and #11 with each of their catch-phrases.

During the three seasons in which Tennant played the Doctor he would yell out “Allons-y!” when he found himself in tight spots or when he was about to do something crazy or dangerous – usually in an attempt to save people’s lives, earth, or even the universe as a whole.

“Allons-y!” He would yell and then spring into battle.

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But as the seasons progressed the Doctor also had some hard times that just seemed to pile on top of each other – most involving having to say goodbye to people he loved. Over and over again – as the goodbye’s continued he grew increasingly depressed. Finally, after yet another epic battle he finally suffered that dreaded life-ending physical injury. His next regeneration was coming, and it was time for him to say goodbye because once his regeneration was complete he would be a new man again. He’d still have the same memories and feelings and thoughts – but his personality and body would be different.

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And as Tennant entered into his last few moments before regeneration you saw pain and anxiety cross his face.

His last cry before his body regenerated was: “I don’t want to go.”

After I watched Tennant regenerate and become Matt Smith, Doctor #11, I had to walk away from my computer. Something about that final scene struck a cord with me. For days I could hear his words over and over again: “I don’t want to go.”

His words were my own.

I have a few months left in Portland: this place that I’ve grown to love so very dearly. I’ve changed here. The Lord has done an amazing work in my life while I’ve been here. He has destroyed who I used to be and created me into someone more amazing than I could ever have imagined! I’ve met people here that I will spend the rest of my life with – dear friends who I can’t imagine leaving. My heart is full of so much love for this place and the people here that I don’t want to go.

I imagine the 10th Doctor had the same issue really. He met people during his time that he LOVED – and for a pretty lonely man I can imagine that’s why he had such a hard time letting go. At least, that’s why I couldn’t seem to let go.

So, after a few days of being haunted by that phrase I found myself in a conversation with a friend at 2:30 in the morning. I was suffering from some insomnia (probably because of my fear of leaving) and, 3 hours ahead of me, he was getting up for work. We chatted a bit about sleep and then about the Doctor and finally the spiritual analogies that Doctor Who is drenched in. I asked him for one that he saw, and he talked about the 11th Doctor’s catch-phrase “Geronimo” and that it reminds him to trust the Lord and take big risks.

And as I read what he wrote I remembered my own favorite phrase…

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I have a little over three months left here in Portland until I graduate. And my attitude this past month has been “I don’t want to go.” But the Lord used that middle-of-the-night conversation to change my heart. When I get to the end of my time here I want to be able to look bravely into the future. I don’t know what He’s going to do next or what adventures He has in store, but I want to have faith in the One who has brought me thus far. And as I leave Portland and enter this next season of life I want to leaving it shouting: “Allons-y!!”

I’m coming for you life!

Posted in Christianity, Complacency, Contentment, Fear, Spiritual Formation, Trust | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Avon Walk Day Two: The Half-Marathon

I know it’s been a long time since I post the first half of this walk, but I finally felt reflective enough to sit down and tell you about the second half of my journey. For context read Avon Walk Day One: The Marathon

I slept through the night but not without interruptions. My entire body was in so much pain due to sleeping on the ground after walking a Marathon. Every time I wanted to roll over or change positions I’d wake up, grimace, take a deep breath and push through the pain of moving. I had told Genoa the night before that I wasn’t sure about walking 13.1 miles the next morning, and sure enough, that morning I began to doubt if I was physically going to be able to finish what we started. By the time our alarm went off around 6am my feet were so swollen that I could barely stand.

I remember hobbling to the porta-potties and thinking, “Welp, that’s it then. I can barely move. I guess I’ll just pack up and…” I couldn’t finish the thought. I had come too far. I couldn’t give up. No. I needed to try. I needed to see how far I could get. I mean, if I could walk to the bathroom perhaps I could just keep putting one foot in front of the other and make it to the end of this crazy walk.

Our "Tent Village" and home for the evening.

Our “Tent Village” and home for the evening.

Packing the Tent

Pack it up, Pack it in…

I hobbled back to the tent and fought against the wind to take it down. Genoa finished getting ready in time to help me with the last of the tent. We slowly made our way to the food tent where we had a large, warm breakfast. At 7:30am we set out on day two of our walk. The wind off the East River was cold so I kept a hot coffee in my hand to help keep me warm.

Time for Day Two

Time for Day Two. Yeah, if it looks like I’m in pain it’s because I am. 

That first mile was the worst. Genoa was having some acute pain thanks to the affects of birthing her third kid, and I wasn’t sure how I was even putting one foot in front of the other because of all the pain in my feet. We moaned and groaned a little, but we kept on walking. By mile two our bodies had adjusted to the pace and warmed up enough that our pain seemed to dissipate which made the walk more bearable.

As we ventured back into Manhattan and the Upper East Side, the city was quiet compared to the bustling mess it was the day before. We crossed quiet and empty intersections and a lot of busy Starbucks. With our eyes set on the finish line we didn’t even want to think about stopping for a cup of coffee. We just wanted to reach the end.

We continued our journey up and around the north side of Central Park and then down through the Upper West Side. I remember staring into the park a lot and daydreaming about how wonderful it would be to sit on a bench in Central Park drinking a Pumpkin Spice Latte. I told Genoa that’s what I wanted to do with our last morning in New York. I wanted to sit on a bench in Central Park and do nothing.

My view into Central Park as I walk by it.

My view into Central Park as I walked by it.

We continued around the south side of Central Park and down through Mid-town. This area was pretty familiar as Genoa and I had explored it a little during our first day in New York before the walk began.

Genoa snagged a sneaky picture of me walking through Columbus Circle.

Genoa snagged a sneaky picture of me walking through Columbus Circle.

We got a text from Lizzy saying that her and Abby were at the end, but that their bus back to Virginia was going to be leaving sooner than they expected. Suddenly we had a time limit! We wanted to be able to see Lizzy at that finish line so we ignored our pain, picked up our pace and pushed on through.

We passed mile marker after mile marker, reveling in the fact that our walk that day was almost over, and how easy it was compared to the day before. After you’ve walked a marathon, walking a half marathon feels easy!

Dude. We're almost there...

Dude. We’re almost there…

I recall somewhere around mile 9 or 10 that morning we came to a stop light where we saw one of the walkers sitting on the sidewalk in what looked like a state of shock. We couldn’t tell if she had fallen or collapsed. Either way it was a reminder that this was not an easy journey and we were blessed to have the strength to keep going.

The end of the walk was quiet. I recall walking quickly, ignoring the pain in my feet, because I knew I wanted to see Lizzy at the finish line before she left. I also knew that the finish line meant sitting and eating. You see, at that point I was so exhausted from walking, so physically pushed to the breaking point that the finish line didn’t mean anything more to me than a chance to see my friend, sit and eat. No glory. No great accomplishment. Just sitting. I could almost visualize the chair and what it would feel like to not be standing anymore.

And suddenly we were nearing the end, walking North along the Hudson to the finish line. We could finally feel the warmth of the sun after spending our morning hours walking in the shadows of the infamous New York skyline.

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Nearing the finish line!

I looked down…step, step, step, step, step…one foot in front of the other. I felt mechanical at that point; each step bringing me closer and closer to my friend and rest.

Baby Steps...

Baby Steps…

And wouldn’t you know it…just feet from the finish line and I looked up to see Lizzy on the path and bursting with joy at the sight of us. I remember smiling through the pain. I was happy to see her. I had done this walk for her. She ran and gave us a hug, which caused me to stumble slightly. As my feet shuffled to keep me standing I was reminded of my pain and the basic desire I had for relief.

All of us about heading to the finish line!

All of us heading to the finish line!

“You did it!!!” She yelled enthusiastically. I remember telling her I hadn’t yet. Not until I crossed that finish line. The pain I had been ignoring all morning was quickly consuming me the closer I got to the end. My desire for relief was so overwhelming that since I had seen Lizzy now, all I could then think about was sitting. Lizzy and Abby walked with us those final few feet as we turned a corner to find a line leading up to the finish – everyone wanting their final photo. So we waited to receive ours as well.

A little finish-line photo-op with the woman who first taught me to embrace photo-ops. The woman who fought cancer and won. The woman who sacrificed just to come see me cross that finish line. The woman who was always my biggest cheerleader, cheering me on yet again as I finished one of the biggest accomplishments of my life.

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The moments we spent with Lizzy and Abby after crossing that finish line were so few. I recall grabbing my lunch and my parting gift: a T-shirt saying I was a “Hero”. We grabbed a seat and froze – especially Abby – while Genoa and I chowed down some of our bag lunch. A few more photos and then Lizzy and Abby were off. And Genoa and I, having seen Avon’s closing ceremonies twice before in San Francisco, left before they even began. We found our way to the shuttle bus that would take us to our hotel and a hot shower.

Lizzy + Food + Sitting = Happy Lisa! One last photo before Lizzy had to leave!

Lizzy + Food + Sitting = Happy Lisa! One last photo before Lizzy had to leave!

We had many more adventures in New York that evening – buying ourselves matching bracelets from Tiffany’s, riding a Ferris Wheel in Toys R Us, wandering Times Square in search of Pizza and Beer, and making our way back to our hotel with a slice of Pumpkin Cheesecake and hot tea to fight against a cold walk back to our hotel.

Now that's my version of a "finishers medal"

Now that’s my version of a “finishers medal”

And I got to sit on my bench in Central Park with my Pumpkin Spice Latte the following morning followed by a Carousel ride, and many more adventures before we flew out that evening.

Nothing like sitting on a bench in Central Park...even better when it's a bench dedicated to Jim Henson!

Nothing like sitting on a bench in Central Park…even better when it’s a bench dedicated to Jim Henson!

I may have walked 39.3 miles, but it took a team of folks to get me across that finish line. Thank you to all of you who helped me and believed in me! I couldn’t have done it without you! There are so many people that need to be thanked: The financial supporters who raised $1800+ for Breast Cancer; my personal trainer, Sara, who helped me know how to train and believed in me; Genoa who walked by my side the whole way and refused to let me stop before crossing that finish line; a ton of strangers and volunteers cheering us through the streets of New York City; Lizzy and Abby coming all the way from Virginia to give us the moral support we needed to keep going, friends and family praying for us, and most importantly the Lord walking with us every step of the way. Never once did we ever walk alone, and I’ll never forget that as long as I live.

Thank you to all my Donors!!!

Thank you to all my Donors!!!

Posted in Avon walk for breast cancer, Christianity, Complacency, Exercise, Healthy Living, Spiritual Formation, Weight Loss | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Doctor

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I’ve had to make some difficult decisions this week. I realized that my ability to consume lots of TV was out of control again after I watched two seasons of Doctor Who in a span of two weeks.

You see, I don’t watch very much TV in general and it’s not because I hate it. It’s because when I was younger I watched TV to escape reality. And while I don’t desire to escape reality anymore, if I get into a show, escaping happens anyway. It’s like my default is set for it.

So I generally don’t watch TV and have been avoiding Doctor Who out of fear that I would really like that show. But, then I happened to watch a few episodes over Christmas Break and all my fears became reality. I LOVE THAT SHOW.

But as much as I like escaping into the world of the Doctor I like my life more. Every day I would finish my little binge of TV shows, and I’d realize I had forgotten several things I needed to get done that day, or a homework assignment I needed to start, or a person I needed to text. And since this is not only my last semester in Seminary but also my last little bit of time in Portland I realized that I didn’t want to squander my time on a TV show that would be there when Multnomah and Portland weren’t anymore.

But how was I going to break this tie I suddenly had to the world of the Doctor?

Well, my redemption came at the hands of the very show I was addicted to. In the last episode of the first season there is a great battle and the Doctor, fearing for the life of his travelling companion Rose, sends her back home just before the battle begins. And, of course, after living life with the Doctor and knowing that he could be dying any minute, she’s beside herself.

Here she as she explains why she can't go back to living a normal life.

Here she is as she explains why she can’t go back to living a normal life.

There she sits with her Mom and best friend while they attempt to help her acclimate and forget about life with the Doctor. But Rose won’t have it, and while she’s explaining why she can’t live a normal life she says the following:

“The Doctor showed me a better way of living your life. You know. He showed you too. That you don’t just give up. You don’t just let things happen. You make a stand. You say no. You have the guts to do what’s right when everyone else just runs away.”

At this point she says something like “I just can’t…” and runs out of the restaurant to attempt to save the Doctor.

And while Rose ran, I sat there smiling. She was right. But the thing is, I know someone even greater than the Doctor who has taught me that same thing and so much more. In that moment I realized that I’m sort of like a companion to the Lord and that He has shown me a better life than just watching TV. I was made for more than to just be entertained. I was made to live, to love others like He loves them and to tell them about how wonderful He is. And while I was watching this fictional Doctor save lives I had been forgetting my role in the story of my own Great Physician.

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So, as I watched Rose flee to the Doctor’s aid I felt inspired to flee them both. I look forward to watching more Doctor Who here and there…but I’m no longer going to let it keep me from that “better way of living your life.” Because unlike the Doctor, I only have one life and I don’t want to spend it watching other people live.

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2004-2015: Reflections and Updates.

January 3, 2004. This is me at my going away party. I had no idea what was in store for me...

January 3, 2004. This is me at my going away party. I had no idea what was in store for me…

Eleven years ago today I boarded a plane leaving California and heading to Portland, Oregon. In retrospect I didn’t even know where Portland was in Oregon. I just assumed it was in the middle somewhere. I also only planned on being in Portland until I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree. But the Lord had other plans.

My reflections from last year on my time here in Portland.

My reflections from last year on my time here in Portland.

Now as I look forward to another graduation, this time with my Master’s degree, I can’t help but notice that the path seems to be taking a turn and heading back to the Golden State I left all those years ago.

So, for those of you that don’t know yet: this May I’ll be moving back to California. The plan is to spend this summer as a Nanny in Livermore for my good friends Jason and Genoa and their three amazing children: Piper, Miles and Scout. After this summer – who knows what the Lord has next! Maybe California – maybe Portland again – maybe somewhere else! That’s what I’m going to be prayerful about as I start the job hunt. Church ministry? College Ministry? Something else? Who knows!

But while I’m still here in Portland I thought it fitting to spend this final semester taking a look back. I want to honor the work the Lord has done in my life and the people He’s used to help me along the way. Often times in the Old Testament the Lord reminds the people of Israel to look back and remember what He has done. I’ve learned that the more I look back, the stronger my faith is in what He’s up to today. So, as I enter an even bigger adventure I’ll take a look back so that my faith may be strengthened for the journey ahead.

But first, before I look at my time in Portland I need to look back at my time in California just before I moved. I’m going to keep this one pretty simple, but this is a basic view of my life before I left:

My reflections from two years ago on my time here in Portland.

My reflections from two years ago on my time here in Portland.

2003:

Classes: A Youth Lit Class that I took with Sarah and totally aced!

Job: Full-time Janitor at Neighborhood Church

Ministry: 20/20 Junior High Ministry, Kid in King Arthur’s Court Musical, Singing in the Rain Musical, Scrooge Musical.

Living situation: Apartment with Joyce.

If it weren’t for these people I would have never even applied to school let alone boarded a plane: Mandy Koski, Joe Koski, Nancy Koski, Steve Koski sr., Chris Lankford, Jason Sperkse, Genoa Sperske, Annabelle Blackman, the rest of the 20/20 Junior High Leadership staff, Susan Bellig, Harma Wilcox, Tracy Teyler, Penny Lapum, Bev Blumert, and the rest of the ladies who served at Neighborhood Church at the time.

Thank you to these folks and to everyone else I knew at the time but didn’t mention. Everyone was so darn encouraging to me. You helped me believe that I could do it, and you also made me feel so loved in how much you told me you’d miss me. For all of this and more I will always be grateful!

What a difference 11 years makes!

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Avon Walk Day One: The Marathon

The phone alarm went off at 4:00am on Saturday, October 18th. After only getting four hours of sleep that night, and three hours of sleep on our respective red-eyes from the west coast the night before, Genoa and I got out of bed and prepared ourselves for a very long day. Today was the day we were going to walk a marathon.

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4:40am selfie!

By 4:40am were ready. We took a moment to pray over our walk and beseech the Lord for the strength we knew we didn’t have before setting out for the starting line. A shuttle bus took us on a quiet ride through the streets of New York on the way to Pier 84 on the Hudson River.

Breakfast consisted of coffee, bananas and these little prepackaged waffles from a local New York company. The sun wasn’t up yet and the wind from the Hudson River quickly made us rethink our thin layer of workout clothes. But, with our luggage packed away in a moving truck that would meet us at the end of our walk that day we just had to deal with the cold.

At 6:15am all the walkers had arrived creating a sea of people, mostly women, deked out in all shades of pink. Genoa and I stood in the back because we knew that’s where the walk would start. That and we were waiting for Lizzy and Abby to show up at any moment. When they arrived we were in the middle of our morning warm up routine. From there we heard the stories of some of our fellow walkers. A husband in support of his wife who was fighting breast cancer, a survivor who had been cancer free for seven months and a son who’s mother had lost her battle. After the rest of the brief program, at 6:45am we were off!10003529_10152792745039935_4598299263847696474_n

A sea of Pink.

A sea of Pink.

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Lizzy and Abby walked with us for nearly a mile before they left to grab some breakfast while Genoa and I continued our journey North along the Hudson for another 4 miles. After a beast of a hill in a beautiful park we found ourselves heading back down south but this time with a view of the city.

Around mile 6 I joked that we were practically there…just 20 more miles to go. At that point both of us felt pretty good. We were filling ourselves with water and all the little snacks that they’d pass out at each of the rest stops. We continued south, passed the Lincoln Center and a bunch of signs for the Lincoln Tunnel. All I kept thinking about was Elf and it sort of made me wish the route took us through there just so I could say that I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel as well.

We walked through SoHo and the fashion district on our way to the Brooklyn Bridge and I could feel myself using up the last little bit of energy I had. On my training walks I would normally take a break around mile 9 so that’s when my body was expecting a break. Problem was, our main break for lunch was at the 13.1 mile half-way point on the other side of the bridge in Brooklyn.

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I managed to maintain a good pace until we got to mile 12: the crossing of the Brooklyn Bridge. I was beat. And the worst part was that we weren’t alone in crossing it. It seemed like every New Yorker and tourist that could be on that bridge was on that bridge which made it impossible to keep a steady pace. The walk across the bridge was full of a lot of stops, starts and veering around photo ops. It was at this point I realized that I was not only getting Hangry (Angry because you’re hungry) I was also getting Paingry (Angry because you’re in pain). It was all I could do to keep moving forward because I knew that there was a sandwich and a seat waiting for me in Brooklyn.

I'm smiling...but there is a lot of pain in these eyes...

I’m smiling…but there is a lot of pain in these eyes…

Finally, we followed our bright orange arrow markers to a small park filled with pink tents and porta-potties: Our halfway point and lunch break! By that point it was around 12:45pm. They gave us a huge turkey sandwich, Sun Chips, carrots, an apple, Oreos and all the water and Gatorade we could drink. After finding a couple of vacant chairs Genoa and I sat down for the first time since 6:15am and enjoyed our lunch. But, we knew that in order to make it to the end before dark we couldn’t rest for too long. After a 20-minute break we were back at it.

Thankfully, we had barely passed mile 14 when we saw the familiar faces of Lizzy and Abby! We took a few photos together with New York and the Statue of Liberty in the background from our Riverside spot in Brooklyn and then all four of us set out on the route again.

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Brooklyn was beautiful and reminded me of The Pearl District in Portland. Lots of shops in brick buildings. We enjoyed chatting with Lizzy and Abby and were able to take a photo together at the mile 15 marker. Shortly after that the route led us to the Manhattan bridge we parted ways with Lizzy and Abby and set out on our own again.

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While less crowded than the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhatten bridge was longer and louder with the subway trains zooming by us every few minutes. We made it back to New York City and began weaving our way through the lower east side.

I remember passing the mile 17 marker and thinking that I couldn’t wait to pass mile 18 because that was how far I had gone on the last Avon walk before having to call it a day. But for some reason we missed that marker which made the walk from mile 17 to mile 19 painfully long. It was during that stretch of the walk that I began to lose what was left of my emotional strength. It’s not that I was thinking about stopping or giving up, but I doubted that I could physically keep going and I had to fight back tears several times.

Genoa suggested that we stop and take a break – something we hadn’t been letting ourselves do up to that point other than to go potty. At the checkpoint we found out that we had passed the 18 mile marker and were actually close to mile 19. It was during that rest that I posted on Facebook, “18.75 miles walked, 7.5 miles left and it feels like it’s forever away. So tired…and yet still walking. God give me strength!” I hoped that my little cry for help would encourage the saints on Facebook to pray for me. I found out later that indeed it did! Friends and family posted on Facebook with encouragements and days later even told me that they stopped what they were doing and lifted me up in prayer. And I felt it…

After about 5 minutes we were back on the route. Not soon after that we saw the 19 mile marker and I nearly started sobbing as I pointed it out to Genoa. Just seven more miles to go.

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Soon after that my energy started to return. My pace quickened and we found ourselves passing some of the other walkers as we went along. Part of me thought that it could be due to the break and the emotional encouragement of seeing mile 19, but mostly I knew that I was feeling the prayers that were being prayed for Genoa and I right then.

We continued on with our quickened pace, and I collected a few blisters along the way because of it. Up to that point I had been blister free…but not anymore!

It was around mile 22.7 that things got interesting. As we were pausing at the rest stop for a potty break we found out that if we didn’t make it to the next rest stop in 30 minutes they were going to make us take the shuttle to the end. At that point it was getting dark and some rain clouds were blowing in and the Avon folks were getting concerned for our safety.

So of course Genoa and I said, “Screw that!” The next rest stop was 1.3 miles away…we knew that if we booked it we could make it in less than 30 minutes. At that point we went started speed walking and we even jogged a little. My blisters got worse but I didn’t care. I didn’t walk 23 miles just to be forced to get on a bus and skip the last three!

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We made it to the next rest stop and were able to pass the 24 mile marker knowing that we were in the home stretch and free from the dreaded shuttle. My pace slowed significantly as we walked along the East River and towards the end of our marathon.

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We made it to the finish line just shortly after the sun had already set. 26.2 miles. No tears, just a sigh of relief and a quick photo as we made our way into the wellness village campsite.

First order of business: FOOD! We ate so much dinner that would were both surprised. From there we hobbled like zombies to the campsite where some boy scouts put up our bright pink tent in the dark. At that point it was about 8pm.

It had begun to drizzle and the temperature had dropped into the low 50s. Even though there was a truck with portable showers open until 9:30pm, the thought of getting wet and then dealing with the cold temps did not sound appealing to us. So, after we washed our faces and brushed our teeth (taking yet another adorable selfie) we covered ourselves in band-aids, icy hot, and as many layers as we could before snuggling up into our sleeping bags.

Teeth Selfie!

Teeth Selfie!

Tent Selfie!

Tent Selfie!

I’d love to say that the day ended there, but my body had a hard time relaxing and I began to shiver uncontrollably. Genoa was worried that it might turn into an anxiety attack if I didn’t calm down and she was right to be concerned. Every time I’d start to calm down and doze off a rush of adrenaline would shock me awake again. After almost 45 minutes of shivering and adrenaline rushes I hobbled outside to clear my head.

New York City from our campsite.

New York City from our campsite.

The lights of New York City were so bright even from our little campsite across the East River that I didn’t need a flashlight to get around. I let out a little exhausted cry of a prayer. I told the Lord that there was no way I could physically walk during day two if I felt at all like I did at that moment. I also asked the Lord to give me the peace I needed to be able to relax and fall asleep. After my little stroll and a visit to the Port-a-potty I made my way back to the tent, snuggled up in my sleeping bag yet again and felt the answer to my prayer request wash over me as I finally was able to give in to sleep.

On to Avon Walk Day Two: The Half-Marathon!

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