The Finish Line

I tried thinking of a less cheesy title for this post, but anyway I tried to cut it, it was still going to be cheesy.

Anyway, here it is. The end of another long semester. But this one was different, as they all are, in that I accomplished more than I thought imaginable. The week of April 19-April 26 was one for the books.

On Monday, I quit my job at Zion after working there for a little over a year.

On Tuesday, I finished my last day of classes as a senior.

On Thursday, I had my last day at my school placement with my fabulous 5th graders and mentor teacher.

On Saturday, I ran my first half marathon (13.1 miles) IN THE RAIN and completed it in less than 2 1/2 hours.

This semester has been the most stressful one of them all. Working, being a full time student, being in the schools, training for the mini-marathon, and keeping up with my pals proved to be one of the most difficult combinations I’ve ever experienced.

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Crossing that finish line on Saturday represented so much of the hardship and struggle that life brought me these last few months. That finish line represented the countless hours spent writing lessons, doing homework, training, going to class, spending time in the classroom, etc. The determination I felt turning that curve to get to the finish line was something I’d never felt before. When Joanna said, ‘Go, give it all you’ve got’, that’s all I needed to book it at the end. Passing people, dodging cones, and making the ugliest face of determination until I made it across. I love symbols and I love that with each mile of that run on Saturday, I was able to drop off another weight from this semester.

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At mile 1 I dropped off the pain. At mile 2 I dropped off the hard work. At mile 3 I dropped off self-hate. With each mile, I crossed a finish line and then kept going until all the hard work, pain, and frustration from this semester ended at the final finish line. I didn’t know it at the time, but now that I’m reflecting on this experience, each mile I got a little bit closer to the person God prepared me for all semester long. He took off more of the old Angela and gave me some newer, thicker skin. I grew stronger after each mile. I grew happier, I grew freer. At one point, I ACTUALLY smiled and laughed. Once the rain came pouring, all I could do was laugh and be thankful that I was still alive and running.

But I did cry. Once I realized I was gonna do it, that I was gonna make it to the end. My feet were gonna get me there. The strength and love of my God were gonna get me there. 2 phone calls during the race from my mom and 2 phone calls from Joanna were gonna get me there. I cried knowing that all the training I completed, prepared me for the finish line.

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People keep saying, ‘man, I wish I could do that’ or ‘that’s so awesome for you, but there’s no way I could run 13.1 miles, especially in the rain’ and my heart wants to burst hearing these phrases. ‘YOU CAN DO IT’, is what I want to scream. 6 months ago I died after running a mile. I absolutely hated it. But give it time. Your body, mind, and soul will thank you for taking care of it (them?).

For me, I wanted my runs to represent my determination outside of running. I had a greater pursuit of knowledge and understanding and could function better in other areas of my life. If I could push through training by running 10 mile long runs for 2 hours, I could write lessons, I could be fully present in my classes, I could work harder at my job. Running symbolizes overall strength and perseverance. Of course, I burned a lot of calories, I strengthened my body, I felt good afterwards, but ultimately it has taught me to push my limits. Go longer, go further. And then take that into my relationships. Go longer, go further. Take that into my work. Go longer, go further. Take that into my time with God. Go longer, go further.

I don’t say these things to put more pressure on myself, but to remember I’m much stronger than I think I am. I have a deeper capacity than I want to believe. Running gives me that perspective. And for that, I’m thankful.

I’m thankful that I get to look at my medal, my bib, my congratulatory flowers, my t-shirt, my bumper sticker and remember what God taught me this semester. Remember how running gives me perspective and drive. Remember how I gave it all I had in each lesson. Remember how I learned to be a better teacher. Remember how God kept his promise of love and freedom.

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Through it all, I have to say that God is good. He is good for bringing me to this point and he is good for giving me amazing support. Thank you God for bringing me through the end of every finish line that I cross in life. You are good.

Prepare

Life is always about the next thing we’re moving into. 5th graders look forward to middle school. 8th graders look forward to high school. High school seniors look forward to college. College seniors look forward to a career-life. Singles look forward to dating. Daters look forward to marriage. Married couples look forward to children. The list goes on. We are hard-wired to prepare for the next steps in life.

Those are the big transitions but then I think about my daily routine & I’m constantly preparing food for my day, making sure I have everything I need before I go to class, work, or my field placement. There’s a serious art to it. I have to force myself to think, “What will I need at this time tomorrow so that I’m ready for whatever comes way?” That could be anything from a snack to having some gum in my backpack. It seems kinda silly admitting it, but being prepared for what is to come is vital to my well-being.

Of course, this got me thinking about many other things that should be prepared for. I think about my relationship with Jesus and this makes so much sense. I often hear, and I include myself in this, “I just don’t know what God wants for my life” or “I don’t really know how to have a relationship with Jesus”. But how can I know him or what he wants if I’m not preparing my heart & mind for him daily? Just like the night before I go to my placement & must make my lunch, pack all the snacks I need for the day, get everything printed for assignments I need work on the following day, I must prepare my heart and mind of all the things Jesus may want to say.

Easier said than done, right? Man, why does God always give us so many analogies from our normal lives into our spiritual lives too? He’s pretty cool like that.

But seriously, how can we prepare our hearts for the way of the Lord? I think he’s waiting to share with us and meet with us more often than we want to with him. I think about that friend that has news to share and you just can’t wait to meet them to hear about that news. I feel like Jesus feels the same way. That he wants to share his heart with us.

Let’s prepare our hearts for more than a 10 minute devotional about how to behave better, according to this one verse in the Bible that Paul said. Let’s get into the nitty gritty with what he wants to share. Let him speak directly to our soul, to our being, to our core. Let him whisper those sweet little reminders of love, peace, and freedom. Let him prepare us for greater, deeper rooted desires for him. Let him prepare for us for excitement, joy, and love. Let him prepare us for wider arms, opened eyes, and a selfless heart.

Just like that 5th grader, 8th grader, high school senior, college senior, career man/woman, single person, dating couple, and married couple, we progress in our preparedness for the Lord. Each encounter, be prepared and ready for him to speak. You’ll move on from 5th grade to 6th grade. Each time he does, the love grows deeper. You’ll move on from 8th grade to 9th grade. Each time he’ll begin to show you himself in deeper connection. You’ll move on from 12th grade to freshman in college. He’ll prepare you for the next thing and then the next thing. You’ll move on from senior in college to a career man/woman. Just keep coming, keep being, keep loving. He’ll show up.

“A messenger is calling out, “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord. Make a straight road through it for our God…””

-Isaiah 40:3