Oct 23, 2015

The many (many) miles of the first-time Detroit FreePress marathoner--

I am batman. I reek of bananas, Nike Dri Fit and promise. Six months ago I had no desire to even walk one mile but now? Now I feel like someone liquified the Beastie Boys and fed them to me through an IV. Let's do this.

Mile 1
It's still dark, people are cheering like crazy and clothes are hitting the ground at a rate so fast you think the Rapture happened. 
You giggle and say "one down, 25 to go!"

1.5 Fluid Station
Flasks are full so you don't stop, but you stare because you can't believe everyone just throws the cups on the ground like that!

Mile 2
You might need to retie your shoes. Why is your belt bouncing like that? When should you GU? 
(Mental math as you attempt to calculate how long those 6:00a bananas will stay in effect) 
Take one just to be safe.. You brought like, 15. 
Hold the wrapper so border patrol doesn't tackle you for littering. Smile, they have guns

Mile 3
Almost a 5K! That was easy! You should do the Color Run or something!
Wow..the sunrise is gorgeous! Let's stop, immediately, in front of the 20K people behind us, and take a selfie

Mile 4
Begin talking about what you'll eat when you're done. Smile at the Canadians. Repeat.

4.5 Fluid Station
Seriously people.. The garbage cans are RIGHT THERE

Mile 5
Sweet Jesus, it's cold. Riverfront winds blast you but you're still rolling from the rush of having just crossed the Ambassador Bridge on foot. The Canadians have clever signs, and beer, and oranges, and bundled blush-faced babies bouncing in the air, and rock bands on makeshift stages, and little old ladies with snarky political signs. You just keep smiling. You're fascinated. Another GU, and you find a garbage can because.. No way you're going to litter in Canada.

Mile 6
Yay! But dang, you're still not close to the tunnel? It looked so much closer on the map. 
Just keep running. Start a chant. High five a stranger. Try not to think that you *only* have 20 to go.

Mile 7
First little wall as you do the math and realize you still have about 4 hours of running, at the very least. You can't even watch Netflix for that long. 
Oh Canada and all your happiness...it's been real, but seriously, give me the tunnel or give me death.

Mile 7.3-8
You're in the tunnel! It's warm! You're underwater! 
Omg... you're underwater. 
Everyone's cheering and whoo hooing, and yeah, it sounds cool.. but that's because you're in a tunnel, UNDERWATER. 
If something gave out you'd no longer be running, but swimming, and panicking and.... 
oh look, the border. You're about to run back to the USA, cool! 
Wait, what was that? Why is there water on the wall? 
Ok, either someone just now tossed their Gatorade cup, or the tunnel is gonna go. 

Mile 8
Daylight! People! 
And a hill. 
And you're struggling. 
I mean, you ran to Canada and back, but you can't go up this hill?

Mile 8.2
Potty. Hold onto EVERYTHING. You cannot go after whatever falls in there. 
Another GU even though there wasn't any sanitizer in that port--you're livin' on the edge.

Mile 8.3
Friends are cheering!! You promised to dance when you saw friends. Cue the MC Hammer.

Mile 9
On your way to Mexican Village and so turned around that you're just following the people and fist pumping every chance you get. 
Someone says "great job Kristin!" and you're confused--how do I know you?! 
Oh yeah.. Your name is on your jersey.. Idiot.

Mile 10
You barely remember mile 10. 
You're tired, you think you heard your name again but aren't sure, and you're beginning to wonder if you're even going to make it. 
Like, seriously, why the heck would anyone run 26 miles? You're crazy. 
And then you see another 26.2 bib and realize--you're with your people. You're all on a mission. 
You're one of them.. or they're one of you. 
Either way, you're drowning in some kind of new emotion and it gives you an edge. 
Celebrate with the chocolate GU because, solidarity.

Mile 11
Cheer station! 
You see your team and you're fired up--back on track. Up ahead is a fluid station and you snag a Gatorade because your flasks are almost empty. 
Minor freak out as you trample 4,000 cups to hand yours to the volunteer with the bag. 
She laughs; "Just toss it honey, look around!" Yeah, you're a dork.

Mile 12
You're on fire. You have made it 12 miles, passed on tempting bourbon, sang along to the Doobie Brothers and have formed some kind of kinship with the dude waving the paper cut-out of the runner he's been chasing since the tunnel. 
Is this the runner's euphoria? Or are you just in your own delirium? You don't know, but you like it.

Mile 13.1
"Half-marathoners to the right, Marathoners to the left!" Do they have to yell and rub it in like that? 
Suddenly, 90% of your people are gone. It's actually colder without the extra bodies, clearly more quiet, and the fans have even fizzled a bit. 
GU it up, take a breather, check in with the fam, and settle in for the next half. 
Oh, and ask yourself WHY THE HECK did you do this again?!?!

Mile 14
Snag two gatorades and throw your cups in the pile. You're making progress! 
Look ahead for signs of people turning. Cue the playlist and chat it up with your partners. 
Dream of bacon.

Mile 15
Dude, this is a lot of straight running. And cars are crossing the course up ahead. Um, hello, we're still here! 
You freak out. Did you miss a turn? Are you still on the route? 
Then you notice an officer is letting them through. Yeah, that's right.. The amount of crazy people has dwindled down to a number that allows them to let traffic through. Your quest is no longer an event, but rather, you're now basically interfering with other people's normal daily lives. 
Like, you have so long to go that they had to roll out this endless stretch of Lafeyette to let you finish.

Mile 15.5 Fluid Station
Slam it, toss it, don't look back.
Now you look like a runner!

Mile 16

Mile 16.5
So this is Indian Village? It looks like The Hills of the Midwest, and I'm legit gawking like Will Smith when he rolls up to Uncle Phil's. There's a totally normal October front-yard volleyball game, and "beverage" stations aplenty. There's a couple walking a dog wearing a bumble bee costume and a house playing what sounds like Prohibition era tunes from what looks like an actual phonograph?! This place is weird.

Mile 17
Your people! Your team's water station and familiar faces! You feel refreshed. You fuel up and tell yourself there's only 9 miles left--single digits! This is nuts!

Mile 18
You caught your second wind. You're smiling again. You wave at the people who are on actual furniture in their front yards eating waffles and chatting, who are likely tipsy and, by this point, have completely forgotten why all these people are running down their street. A sweet little old man is handing out Dixie cups of jelly beans. You run through a plywood "wall" in someone's lawn while singing along to Bohemian Rhapsody. 
Basically, Indian Village was pretty freaking awesome.

Mile 18.5
Jefferson Ave! Dude, you're almost to Belle Isle, and that's 20! That's when it gets real!
You hear a woman behind you yelling... at herself... 
She dropped her running fuel and can't stop and turn around for fear her legs will think the race is done and seize.
You offer her one of yours, and she nearly consumes the wrapper with it. 
It's like Band of Brothers out here y'all.

Mile 19
You're at the bridge. You see your family. You cry and celebrate. You're on cloud nine. 
You think you broke a toe but that's ok because you got this!

Mile 19.8
The two people standing here say, "20 miles!!!" And you're stunned because, there's no flag. Where the heck is the flag? It's not real if there's no flag? Out here we live and die by the flippin flag! Don't you know what we're going through?! Why would you lie to us?! 

Oh hey look, the flag! Yay for 20!

Mile 20
Silently apologize for mentally insulting strangers

Mile 21
You didn't realize Belle Isle was so big. You can see the Ren Cen, which is sort of how far you have left. You have 5 more miles. Remember when you'd only run 5 miles? You were in Canada. Now you can see where you were. It's like a runner's inception. Space and time are messing with you. Or it's the copious amounts of GU and Gatorade. You fall behind your running partner. Minor freak out. 
You wish she wasn't wearing ear buds. 
You wish you could sprint. 
You wish you hadn't passed on the jelly beans at Mile 18.

Mile 22
You catch up to your friend, go GU crazy and prepare for the homestretch. You're in pain, she's on a roll. You plan to ride it out as long as you can. 
Finishing is most important. If you weren't spiritual at the starting line, you are now!

Mile 23
Your family waited for you to leave the island!! So exciting, and just like that, you're like a horse out of the gates. 
Only this horse moves more like one of those elderly mall walkers.

Mile 24
Dude, Detroit is pretty from here. You swell with love for your city. Or you have to puke. Either way, you're feeling it.

Mile 25
Just before the flag, one of your teammates spots you in the chaos, runs up to you, and tells you exactly how far you need to go to finish. 
He points to the farthest building in your line of sight and says "turn there, and then it's only 16 more blocks." 
He might as well have said you just had to stop by the moon real quick. 
It feels like forever. 
And then you remember your one mile self joking about "only 25 to go." 
You want to punch your one mile self.

Mile 25.1

Mile 25.2-3

Mile 25.4

Mile 25.5-6

Mile 25.7
Your coach finds you and walks with you. 
You say, "I'm dying." 
He says, "and you're doing it beautifully." 
You cry.. You can't believe you're doing it. You signed up for this sucker back in January and now you're here--at the end--receiving tender encouragement from the people who brought you through from your first day of training back in April. He sends you off. 
You feel like the scene from Chariots of Fire. (but it's totally the senior mall walker stride again..)

Mile 26
You see the flag. You make the second to last turn, uphill. You hear the finish line. You just breathe. 
You're not done yet. Left foot. Right foot. Repeat.

Mile 26.1
Final turn, the end is literally in sight. The roar of people takes away the tears but your legs are morphing into cement by the second. You are stomping along a beach of mental mud as you close in on that magic line that makes you a finisher. You see your girls on the left, throw out a smile, and then it hits you all over again. Left foot. Right foot. You can't believe you're doing this. Left foot. Right foot. Repeat. The emotion erupts and you just cover your face and keep running. Left foot. Right foot. 

Mile 26.2
And then you stomp over the line, and the sensor that signals your clock's end, and just like that you are done--you did it! You are officially a Marathoner. You hear the announcer say your name--your name! They put a medal on your neck. and a spacesuit over your shoulders.
You feel your legs begin to freak out so you stroll down the line to collect high fives and take a few celebration pics. 

Before you head back to get your gear, you collect some post-run nourishment and giggle as you're right back where you started six months ago: full of bananas and you probably couldn't even walk a mile.

Hail to all the runners out there... 

And if you think the recap was long--RUN IT!

Aug 12, 2015

the state of my spirit

I’m breaking through some afflictions today using the proven strategy of amazing-worship-on-repeat. Today’s blessed weapon of choice:

Oh, this song. This song!
“The skies lay low where you are. On the earth you rest your feet.
Yet the hands that cradle the stars are the hands that bled for me.”

God is big, and He is good. And no matter what I face, He is there. 
And though I know this, I still fall apart at times. 
Like, fall… and hit the ground completely broken. 

But today I’m just stricken with pure overwhelm as I remember His nearness, and what that proximity actually means.

For He is not only above or around me, but BESIDE me. 
And I don’t just have access to Him by some luck of the draw or chance occurrence.. 
I have access because He went out of His way to make Himself accessible. 
He came down and wore flesh and loved me all the way to His last mortal breath.

And then He came back--to show this world that His promise was real and His covenant is strong, and His death was the best thing that could ever happen to us.

I think of the two men being crucified with him.
One called out..  “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus replied..  “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Even as He faded He was merciful. 
He was beaten and bloody, but only really broken by His insane love for those that stood before him and hung next to Him.

I imagine the position of those three crosses, and wonder whether the thief could see Jesus’ face as he spoke to Him. I wonder if He caught a glimpse of his Savior's gracious gaze as he faithfully asked for His consideration.

And then I ponder what is not written.. what happened after that.

The silent conversation between their human hearts.
Dying eyes suddenly brought to life.
Two strong silhouettes meeting God side-by-side in a fury of light that evening.. 
the first of many that Jesus would escort home.

A torn veil served as the reminder of the moment He made a way.
Blood-soaked earth lay like a pot of gold; precious currency for each soul that was and was to come.

And I, too, am found in this aftermath.
For Jesus is with me here.
Whispering promises to a dying human heart.
Tempering a spirit desperate for its homecoming.

May 22, 2015

i saw her today

The girl with like, two bibles and a crumpled study workbook sprawled across a Starbucks table.
Little multicolored pens speckled that space like confetti. Fitting.. it was a party, after all.
Because I didn't just see a girl neck-deep in good book -- I saw a girl who was just thirsting for a word and a hope. I saw a girl letting her text messages ding and all the people walk by as she stayed focused on the only One who could speak the very message she needs today. She sipped her coffee, and she glanced at the screen, but she boomeranged back to the bound book in front of her, scouring scripture for her treasures, promised.
It wasn't a fellow Christian woman who recognized the hunger of that posture. It was a tired momma, drudging through the thick of it, seeing her and saying "that one is anchored to something right now." 
And in that moment, my heart asked to be anchored, too. It begged me to stop seeking approval and acceptance elsewhere, and just dwell in the warmth of grace and true love. 
I saw her and my heart settled, knowing I had access to the same tranquil appointment.
I saw her and my hope swelled, remembering who I was and why I am here. Telling me that the restlessness is good, because it gives me space to choose and move and live. 
I saw her, and I saw the only place where the weary could rest, and the broken could heal, and the lost could find refuge. 
because in seeing her, I saw Him.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

Oct 22, 2014

firstfruit (a 31 Days post)

today's joy is both simple and complicated in nature. 

it came in the form of a completed project--the first major project i've been part of in my new position--and it just feels plain great to see it in hard copy. 

at the same time, i cannot help but recall the past couple months of wondering if it would ever make it to this. 

the process of waiting on God's message, leaning into valued leaders, considering the hearts and minds and faith walks of thousands of attenders... it just became overwhelming. even a bit scary!

we are a big church prepared to do big things. we've been given much and so, we know God expects much from us. this project reflects that. without spoiling too much i'll just say, it's a spiritual formation piece for a stewardship event. it bridges the goodness of God's blessing with the struggle to be obedient. it's more than an elaborate request, but a humble invite. 

getting to this point, however, was so hard. in one ear we had the wicked one telling us that we were crazy and ineffective. in the other, we had an ear trumpet, hoping to catch God's messages amidst enemy fire. day in day out we wavered between confidence and conviction. we never gave up, but bordered on becoming careless--which is pretty much the same thing.

seeing it through meant seeing God around every corner. each draft submission carried fresh faith with it. each approval meant thanks, and lots of them. this is the firstfruit of our big project at NorthRidge, and my joy is in sharing this picture of its completed form.

Oct 21, 2014

sibling love (a 31 Days post)

he drew his first picture of himself and "Baby Ella." 

(if you don't already know, we are not finding out the gender of this baby. but since day one Eli has referred to my belly as "Ella" and so we go along with it)

i loved this little demonstration of acknowledging a relationship. before he even knows what it is to be a big brother, he sees that he is big and strong, and the baby is smaller. he sees that they look the same. he sees that they are close.

maybe i see too much into things, but how could i not? he is so pure and innocent, and as deeply rooted in the present as he'll ever be. whatever he does, i hope i never miss seeing it through his eyes. today, this little image of him and his sibling-on-the-way brought me so much joy and hope and love. 

little one, we cannot wait to meet you :)

Oct 20, 2014

proof of life (a 31 Days post)

:: bedtime at the Cho House ::

Me: Eli, let's lay down.. it's time for sleep..

Eli: Momma I'm trying to get the sand out of my pocket.

Me: What sand?

Eli: This. ::he pulls tiny bits of gravel out of his pocket::

Me: oh my gosh! Where did that come from?!

Eli: From the park with MinJoon. I saved it.

We hadn't been to the park in over a week. 

I quickly unzipped his hoodie (the one he begged to wear to bed) and headed to the bathroom to clean out his pockets. as sure as he explained, he saved some of that last visit.  

i had to laugh a bit. i mean, we can never really understand what is going on in our little people's minds. we think big toys and elaborate jungle gyms are what entertain them.. meanwhile, they are stuffing rocks in their pockets with their friends.

it's a small mess.. thank God i hadn't yet washed that sweater.. but it's the proof that we are living. it's proof we are getting out of the house and enjoying the world. it's proof we are experiencing time with friends, and helping Eli meet new people and create his childhood memories. 

today's joy was found in a pocket full of the stuff we would normally shake off our boots at the back door. so much so that i staged it on my bathroom counter for this post and laughed the entire time. 

(and of course, i cloroxed that counter after...