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One Good Thing

Two years ago, my best friend (and roommate) went to Africa for three weeks to do humanitarian work. Each night, everyone in her group gathered together to process what they saw and did, and to regroup for the coming morning. And each night they had to share “one good thing” about the day. Sometimes the “good things” came easily. Other times it was excruciating to try and find “one good thing” in a place that seemed, at times, to be so God-forsaken. But eventually, “one good thing” was always found.

Kim brought a lot of things back from Africa–stories, trinkets, lessons, a heart forever changed–but this tradition of “one good thing” has perhaps become my favorite thing she brought home with her. It found its way across the ocean and into our nightly routine.

At the end of every day, we each share “one good thing.” Sometimes those “good things” are simple like coming home from work at the end of a long day, or seeing an elderly couple holding hands while crossing the street, or maybe just a great hair day. Other times they’re huge like a family picnic or a grand accomplishment at work. Either way, there is always a good thing. And it’s this tradition I want to share, because today I have “one really good thing.”

And I mean “one really good thing” in addition to the “other mini good things” that happened today–like the fact that The Bachelor had a “Where Are They Now” episode tonight (YES!) or the fact I’m drinking some delicious chamomile tea in bed while I’m writing this. But this particular “one really good thing”? Well, it is really good. And I have to share it, so that I learn it.

For a few years now, I’ve been telling Heavenly Father, “I want my life to change.” And then I list all the ways I want my life to change as well as my game plan for how I’m going to make those changes happen. Well, to say the least … not much has changed. Sure there have been some changes, some pretty significant ones in fact. But not “change” in the sense that I really feel like my life has progressed and become something it’s supposed to be.

Now I don’t know what clicked tonight. But as soon as the click happened, the processing of thoughts came at a rapid pace. I was driving home telling Heavenly Father again how “I want my life to change.” But I stopped, and something made me ask HIM what He thought I should change. I realize that for most this is not a major epiphany. But for me, tonight, it was an huge mind shift. And one that brought a huge answer.

I’ll be honest. I’m still not quite sure how to accomplish what He wants me to change. It seems almost impossible, and I do realize that “with God all things are possible,” but sometimes even in knowing that, hard things still seem impossible. But that’s not the point tonight. Tonight the point is that He answered. That’s it. My “one good thing” is that He’s there. Listening. Loving. And answering. And I know He’ll answer again when I have the courage to ask, “How?”

May we all be blessed with answers and “many good things.”

 

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My 5K Marathon

“You’ll be glad I stayed,” she said.

“No I won’t,” I replied indignantly. “I gave everyone strict instructions. Remember? ‘Don’t run slower than you usually do just for me.’ I’m slow and I don’t want anyone holding themselves back just because they feel bad leaving me. So go. Please. I know you run faster than this.”

She didn’t answer. She also didn’t increase her pace.

I gave up. Mostly because I can’t talk, breathe, and run all at the same time, but also because I didn’t have energy to waste on arguing. I knew the mountain I had to climb and I didn’t have stamina to spare.

So we ran. But I was annoyed. I didn’t want to hold anyone back. I also didn’t need anyone feeling sorry for me. I know I run slow – about as slow as the 70-year-old walkers in front of us. But that’s fine. My only goals were to finish in less than forty-five minutes and to run the whole way. Not one step of walking.

At the quarter-mile mark the police officer cording off traffic danced and clapped as we passed. “You go girls! You can do it!”

“I’m gonna need you again in about a mile,” I laughed.

“I’ll be right here on your way back,” she said.

I was keeping an even pace. An even, slow, pace. I knew if I wanted to finish having run the whole way I couldn’t go any faster. But she was still beside me – even as slow as I was.

At mile one we started seeing runners already on their way back. Every so often we’d pass a member of our group and I’d smile, straighten my back, and add a bit more bounce to my step, trying to make it look like I was enjoying this and holding up well.

Why I decided to do this was beyond me. I hate running. But I said I was going to do it. So there I was. Running as best I could. And she was still beside me.

We made it to the half-way point and I was oddly happy to be on the return side meeting people still headed for the turn-around. Not that I was glad they were behind me, but I was just grateful not to be last. I looked to my right and the ocean spread far beneath a cloudy sky. It had seemed crazy to drive so far for such a short race, but now – looking out over the California coastline – it was worth it. Maybe.

I could see mile marker two ahead. I was tired but okay. Two miles was as far as I had ever gone before. I said a quick prayer that I’d be able to go the last mile.

Mile two and a quarter. The mind-talk begins.

I’m really tired. I really want to walk. I don’t think I can do this. I have to walk. Just one step.
No Krista. You can’t.
Heavenly Father please. Help me.
Please …
Please …
Please …
Please help me finish. Help me just do this one thing. Help me do what I said I would do.

I was breathless. “Help me remember why I love this? Tell me again why I’m doing this?”

She began to rattle off the why’s, legitimate or otherwise. I just prayed. And we kept on running.

I don’t remember anything about the space between two-and-a-half and three miles but I know my body gave up and something else took over. My mind perhaps. More likely my spirit. But I was still running. And she was still beside me.

Only one-tenth left. The crowd along the streets got thicker the farther we went.

“You can do it!”
“You’re SO close!”
“The finish line is right there,” they yelled.

They didn’t even know me. And I was practically last. I didn’t know it would feel like this. I couldn’t hold back the tears. I just didn’t know it would feel like this.

I could see the finish line up ahead and my legs voluntarily pumped faster. I couldn’t slow them down. Audible sobs escaped with every gasp for air. Heart racing, I kept pounding forward. She reached over and put her hand on my back.

“I have to stop crying,” I laughed. “I can’t breathe and I can’t see! But I just didn’t know it would feel like this.”

I had never run this fast, or this far, but there I was – three steps away. Three. Two. One. Runner 663: Forty-four minutes and fifty-nine seconds. And there she was – right beside me.

For a minute I was lost in the euphoria and the finishing ribbons and the commotion of it all. But then I heard my name. I looked to my right and there was my group. Four girls jumping up and down, smiling, laughing, cheering as though I’d just finished a marathon. In a way – I had.

I really wasn’t prepared for how it would feel to finish. Truthfully, I wasn’t really prepared for any of it. And I needed a minute alone.

Run slowed to walk and I didn’t stop until I reached the wall by the cliff. Shuddering, I collapsed into a fit of uncontrollable sobs.

Heavenly Father I did it. I finished and I ran the whole way. I did it.
Thank you …
Thank you …
Thank you …
I did what I said I would do.

And I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

Looking back, that race was the most excruciating physical experience I have ever had to that point. I’ve never pushed my body farther or relied so heavily on my spirit. To some it’s only a 5K – a mere 3.1 miles. But to me it represents the depths of my ability and the wellspring of strength from which my soul draws. I’ve done hard things before – but I’ve never reached a point where I was certain I couldn’t go on. I’ve never felt the moment where body ends and spirit transcends. Until that day. May 20, 2006. The day I did what I said I’d do.

***

“You’ll be glad I stayed,” she said. And she was right.

She’ll probably never know just how glad, or how grateful I was, and am, that she stayed. She’ll probably never understand how both she, and those three miles, changed my life for forever. And the funny thing is–the race is over. But she’s still here. Still matching my pace. Still running beside me. Helping me do the things I say I’ll do.

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My Island Home

I come from an enchanted island and thus, had an enchanting childhood. Surrounded by the Atlantic and kept from the mainland only by a wildlife refuge and a pair of bridges, it was a place I clamored to escape as a teenager. But now, with my rearview in focus, I see the dream-world I grew up in.

Come. Sit with me … you in your rocking chair and I in mine, and I will tell you of these dreams over a tall glass of lemonade. Close your eyes. Drink the heat. A symphony of crickets and frogs will serenade, and these stories of oceans and skies will rest between us like the glistening air on your skin.

***

I am five. Maybe six. Sunbeams stream through a canopy of oaks kissing everything golden. My bony legs step lightly on the dusty path, fighting the urge to run. I don’t like getting dirt in my shoes. The dock is behind me and the red barn as tall as the pines surrounding just ahead. I look down at my left elbow and run my fingers gently over a little brown birthmark. It reminds me of her, and her name. Again I fight the urge to run. I know she is waiting.

Big, and black, and beautiful, with a lap you could get lost in, Bertha is there just like she always is with my special plate. The same plate she always sets aside just for me. Extra cornbread. She knows it’s my favorite. I eat every crumb. There in the bigness, and safety, of her lap.

***

I am eleven. Leah is my best friend because we both love to paint. Easy as that. Today we decide to sneak through the fence and explore under the bridge. The woods don’t seem as treacherous now that we’re eleven. Tiny drops of sweat trickle down the middle of my back. Finally we make it to the bridge and the water passes in and out over our toes.

All afternoon we pace up and down the shore, combing the broken oysters for jewels. We laugh and talk the way only eleven-year-old girls can. The world speeds by in cars overhead and time wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for our stomachs. Dinner will be ready soon, so with sun-pinkened noses we head for home. Running fast, holding tight to my treasures, this has been the best day of the summer. I have a jar full of shark teeth and mermaid fingernails.

***

I am twenty-one. Standing beside my dad. We’re on Bertha’s island again – but she’s not here anymore. I secretly wish for her cornbread. Behind us streams the chatter and laughter from the barn. This place is a novelty to them, the tourists. An island lost in time. But for us, it’s the essence of our home.

Flaming orange, the sun shoots blazing pink heat across the sky as it disappears into the sea. Seagulls fly overhead and a pair of dolphin swim lazily in the Sound. Fiddler crabs scurry underneath a warped dock and to our left an oak tree dripping with Spanish Moss reaches her bony fingers out over the marsh.

“This is what you’ll miss when you’re gone,” he finally says.

He was right.

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The First Post

It’s good to be blogging again. I stopped for a number of reasons–but mostly because I lost myself and didn’t feel like I had anything to say. But I’ve come to remember that our stories matter. My story matters. This is my becoming.

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