And if not, He is still good.

Well, this blog post has been in the works in my brain for almost two years. And even now as I start to actually type it out, my heart is racing and I’m starting to sweat a little bit. I’m putting myself out there. I’m letting you know what’s been going on. And it’s scary. Because I know that this is making myself vulnerable. But I also feel that God has placed it on my heart to finally let you know how He has been working in our lives. So, here goes!

Back in March 2015, Josh and I decided that we would start trying to have children. We were ecstatic! We just knew that it would happen right away for us! I had all the “symptoms” all the time, a few late night runs to RiteAid to buy pregnancy tests, and all the usual “baby-name-planning” and “nursery-decor-dreaming-up” (for me, at least ;)).

Well, a little time went by, and nothing seemed to be happening. I was following my calendar so closely, and every time that “time of the month” came, it was heartbreak all over again. So, after some time, we decided to go see our doctors.

We’ve been told that our chances of conceiving naturally are less than 1 in 1 million. That was hard to hear. Lots of tears. Lots of prayers. Lots of bitter, angry thoughts counteracted by reminding ourselves that God is good ALL THE TIME. 

My doctor recommended that we go to the Infertility Clinic at Penn Med in Philadelphia. So we did. Those doctor visits were cruel days, because it seemed that every pregnant woman in Philly was sitting in the waiting room with us. And then there was me. Little old barren me.

We had several tests done and consultations with doctors. One false hope after another. During one of our last doctor appointments we were told that this would happen, no problem. But then when they started explaining the IVF process to us, the “discarding of the embryos you don’t want” sounded an awful lot like abortion. As Christ followers, we were looking at things from a different perspective than the doctors. Not to mention, the price for the IVF process is ridiculously expensive.

So…here we are. Waiting. And waiting. And waiting. And unsure of what the future holds for us. This has been the hardest thing we have ever had to go through. But also the best time of growth in our walks with the Lord and with each other. It’s this crazy emotional roller coaster. One minute I’m screaming that this doesn’t make any sense and I can’t bear this pain any longer, and the next minute I’m reminded that my God is in control and I’m thankful that He has given us this burden to bear. Because He is showing us more of Who He is. As He draws us closer in His embrace while walking through this with us.

Infertility is like grief. We sorrow for the children that we will never be able to know and love and hold. We sorrow that we will never know how many there would have been or what their names would have been or what their genders would have been. Would they have had my green eyes or his blue?

I will never feel those sweet kicks in my tummy that every fertile woman talks about. I will never be able to tuck a sweet little blonde head into bed after nursing them and laying them down for the night. And this is hard. And so painful.

But I’m also learning that this is good. Because it is the path God has chosen for us and His plan is always, always, always, better than my own. I may not understand what He is doing, but I know that anything that draws me closer to Himself and conforms me more into His image is the best thing. And so that is what I want. And that is what Josh wants. Even though many days that is not what we feel like we want or need.

This past summer, Josh and I both started a study through the Psalms. We were struggling to see that “God is for us” and needed to remind ourselves of the truth that He is for us. David’s emotional roller coasters have been such an encouragement to my own “up-and-down” heart.

God reminds me throughout the Psalms that He is my Refuge, He is for me because I am His child, He makes me wait and trust sometimes, He is my loving Father, He is the Lifter of my head (my Encourager), He hears my prayers, He is my sustainer, He is my Joy and my Peace. (And these truths are found in just the first five chapters!)

These have been the loneliest, darkest days, in which I cry on a daily basis, want to shield myself from all the precious baby pictures and pregnancy announcements everywhere I turn, and all the innocent comments of “Don’t you want one of these?” (while cradling her sweet baby in her arms) and the questions of, “When are you going to have children? I mean, you are almost thirty years old and have been married for five and a half years. What’s the hold up?” I have my days where I just want to barricade myself in the house and never have to face another human, because interaction with other human beings is potential for getting asked a painful question. But I can’t live like that anymore. I need to tell my family and friends what is going on. And I know, even though sometimes it seems that I am all alone in this, that I am not. There are other girls out there in the same boat. And I don’t want them to feel that they are walking alone.

Josh and I could have never known when we received our degrees in Biblical Counseling, the painful road that lie ahead. But, I have witnessed time and time again that the people who God uses are usually the ones who have walked a hard road. Of pain and tears and heartache, but have been able to proclaim through it all, “My God is always good and loving and gracious.” That is our prayer through this journey. That God would use us to be an encouragement to others.

We may still try IVF one day. The kind where you don’t freeze any embryos. Which makes our chances of it actually working very, very slim. So we are trying not to get our hopes up. I also dream of having a house full of adopted children from every race. But I don’t know what God has in store. My prayer is that God will give me grace to accept the life that He has given me. Even if that means I never hear the words, “Mommy, I love you”.

Through this infertility journey, God is teaching us more than ever, that He is the ONLY source of true joy and satisfaction. Psalm 16:11 has been one of my favorite verses for a long time: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” I cannot seek my joy in anything other than Christ. Being a mommy, as much as that feels like my calling as a woman, will not bring me the joy of the Lord. He alone can provide that.

So we are resting in that truth. Seeking to embrace this life that He has chosen for us. On our little chalkboard hanging in our kitchen, I have written these words from Corrie Ten Boom:

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

Some days are harder than others, but we have found this to be true. Thank you for reading my rambling, jumbled thoughts. Please pray for us. But don’t pray for healing for our bodies. Pray that God will use this in our lives to allow us to know Him in the deepest, sweetest way. And know that if you are walking this road of infertility also, that I am praying the same thing for you.

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On Periscope and Book Recommendations

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So, I tried making my second Periscope video today, and I still feel super uncomfortable broadcasting myself live. I think I had been broadcasting for about 30 seconds when I decided I couldn’t do it and deleted the recast video. 😉 But, it gave me a great idea for my next blog post! 🙂 Blogclarity.com’s Periscope challenge for yesterday was to broadcast a live video talking about books that I have read. I’m very new to it, but I have enjoyed watching some of my favorite bloggers and authors.

So, here is a list of the books that I talked about in my video (that you’ll never see):

Fiction:

  • Anything by Karen Kingsbury. She is my favorite Christian Fiction author. I have read about 45 of her books, and my goal is to read them all! My favorite is The Baxter Family series. It’s one of those series where the characters come so alive to you that you miss them when you finish the books.
  • Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. A Hosea and Gomer story set in the 1800s. A beautiful picture of the Lord’s love for me. I bawled.

Health:

  • French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano. I lost 30 pounds after reading this book in 2010 and have maintained my goal weigh ever since. It’s not a diet book. It’s a book that teaches you to make tiny lifestyle changes in a cute, funny, and charming style.
  • Marathon! You Can Do It! by Jeff Galloway. This book was a lifesaver as I was injured in the middle of marathon training and not sure I’d be able to run the race. I read it cover to cover while taking a few weeks off from running and I believe it is one of the main reasons I was able to continue on with training and was able to run the marathon. Jeff Galloway is the man.

Christian Living:

  • The Barbarian Way by Erwin Raphael McManus. A call to step away from the comfortable American Christianity that we have become so accustomed to and embrace the dangerous adventure that is the Christian life.
  • Stand by John Goetsch. I’ll just quote the subtitle: “Commit to Fighting Your Spiritual Battle.”
  • Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. And anything else by C. S. Lewis. He’s another of my favorite authors.
  • War of Words by Paul David Tripp. A fantastic help in learning to be Spirit-filled in our communication with others, especially our spouses.
  • Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver. We are all busy women, running around like little overwhelmed Martha’s. In this book, Joanna shows us how we can find “intimacy with God in the busyness of life”.
  • Letters to Pastors’ Wives edited by Catherine J. Stewart. This is a compilation of letters from ministry wives to ministry wives, but I believe it is an excellent resource for any Christian wife who wants to be supportive to her husband in whatever God has called him to do . This book is such an encouragement!
  • Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. “Is the gratitude that flows out of your life as abundant as the grace that flows into your life?” This book is a life changer. It gave me a whole new perspective and served as a reminder that I can always be grateful, no matter the circumstance, because God has saved me. When my focus is on Him, everything else dims in comparison to my great Savior.
  • Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMossThis is such an excellent resource. Every chapter lists lies that we tend to believe about God, ourselves, our marriages, our children, etc. and counteracts the lies with tons of Scripture so that we can train our minds to focus on “the truth that sets [us] free”.

A good book is an event in my life. -Stendhal

Making Espresso Drinks at Home

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After much experimentation in the kitchen, I have finally found a way to make frothy espresso drinks at home. The credit goes mostly to my lovely sister-in-law, Amy, who introduced me to this awesome little milk-frother that has basically changed my life. Confessions of a true coffee addict, right? She let me use hers several times while visiting family at Christmas, and I knew as soon as I got home I would be ordering one for myself. You can get them on IKEA’s website for just $2.49! I paid $6 on Amazon for mine (including shipping), so not bad at all.

I also have a little Krups espresso machine. Just a tiny one that sits on the countertop. It is very simple to use and only costs about $35 on Amazon. It has a milk steamer on the side that I sometimes use as opposed to the IKEA milk-frother, but it takes a little more practice to get the steaming technique down than the IKEA handheld version. If you don’t want to invest in an espresso machine, extra strong coffee works, too, although I wouldn’t suggest using coffee from a Keurig. I’ve tried it once or twice and the only way I can think to describe the taste is “weird”. Probably not what you want. Just your average coffeepot or a French press would do the job, as long as you have good quality coffee grounds to work with.

So how do I make my homemade espresso drinks?

I start by heating 6 ounces of milk (usually organic cow’s or non-GMO almond) in a pot over the stovetop. Sometimes I put non-GMO stevia or organic sugar, if I’m in the mood for a sweet drink. Meanwhile, I pour my water in the top of my espresso machine, put good quality grounds into the portafilter, tamp them down, lock it in, and turn the dial to the espresso option. Once the espresso is finished and the milk is heated to the right temperature, I set my espresso aside and pour the milk from the pot into a glass Pyrex measuring cup. I froth the milk with my nifty handheld device for about 12-15 seconds. I always beat my Pyrex glass against the counter a few times, just to make sure all the big bubbles are burst. Mine has a rubber ringed bottom, so I don’t feel like I’m hurting it or making too much noise. Then I pour my espresso into a coffee mug and pour the milk on top. I have big dreams of one day discovering how to make latte art, but I haven’t figured out how to do that quite yet. When I do, I will be sure to share it with you! I need a barista to teach me. YouTube isn’t working. At least not for me anyway.

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Well, I hope this has given you an idea of a few tools that will help you make delicious lattes at home. I remember thinking before the days of having these nifty little gadgets that if I wanted a latte, I would either have to go to Starbucks and spend five bucks or invest in one of those $2,000 machines that I had neither the money nor the room for in the kitchen. I am glad there are much more economical options for the frugal.

Homemade Whipped Cream

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A few days ago I saw this video on how to make whipped cream at home. I am a big fan of whipped cream, but knowing all the chemicals and artificial junk that are in most store bought brands, I had not had it in a while. I rarely have heavy cream in the fridge, but I just so happened to need it for a dinner recipe and had just enough leftover to give this a try. All you need is a mason jar and 1/2 cup of heavy cream, 1 Tbsp of powdered sugar, and a small drop or two of vanilla extract. Put your ingredients in the jar, secure the lid and shake for forty-five seconds.

I shook my little jar and then hesitantly pulled the lid off thinking, “There’s no way that this worked after only forty-five seconds.” But sure enough, I dipped my finger in and gave it a taste and discovered that I was holding a jar of whipped cream in my hand! And it was good! I had just made espresso and heated up some milk, so I frothed up a latte and put a dollop of my delicious whipped cream on top. This beats Starbucks any day, and think of all the time and money you are saving and the artificial ingredients that you are choosing not to pump into your body if you made this your morning routine instead of running through the Starbucks drive-thru?

Why I Changed My Name

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I changed my name. My blog name, that is. What did you think I was talking about? Let me give you a little update on my life over the last two years. Other than my marathon post last month I haven’t blogged since November of 2013. You may have been wondering why I stopped and why all the sudden I am starting again. As many of you know, I started my blog as a way of sharing with family and friends what I was learning about our food industry in the United States and why I had begun to eat organic as much as possible. My first post was in March 2013. In June of that year we moved from South Carolina to Delaware because my husband was hired as a youth pastor.

This brought many changes in our lives. Since I didn’t initially look for a job, I should have had more time to blog, but I spent most of my days being a full-time painter and interior designer in my own home. As first time homeowners, we were always working on our latest big “fixer-upper” project. We still have a few of those, but most of them get smaller as we go. There were many firsts for me to work through, from trying to figure out this ministry wife thing, to trying to drive on ice and snow, to trying to not get run over by crazy fast northern drivers, and just learning how to survive in the freezing temperatures that this Carolina girl had never experienced. My blog just wasn’t a priority anymore.

I was also running a lot more. I actually starting training for races for the first time since high school cross country meets. In January 2014, I started working at a fitness center. It was awesome to have access to treadmills when the roads were icy. With a new job, which I love by the way, there was even less time for blogging.

But I missed writing. I didn’t really realize how much I missed it until after I ran my first marathon. All I could think about was how I needed to record every thought that I could remember from it because I never wanted to forget such an incredible experience. I wrote down my thoughts with the intention of keeping them to refer to before my next marathon. I knew it was highly likely I would forget everything wonderful about it and have the thought every runner has during training, at least a few times: “Why am I doing this to myself…again!?”

But after writing it, I couldn’t keep it to myself. I knew there were too many people out there that could benefit from reading it. I wanted to inspire people. Whether that was to take that first step or to keep pushing through a training plan or to not give up through injury,  I wanted runners everywhere to know that if I could do it, they could too.

But then I didn’t know where to post it. My blog was Coffee and Turquoise: all things natural and organic. A post about running didn’t fit. Or did it? The original idea for my blog was to write about what we put in our stomachs and on our skin, but didn’t taking care of our bodies with the food we eat and the lotions and make-up we choose to wear include taking care of them with our fitness as well? That sparked an idea of expanding my blog, to make it a place where I could write about all the areas that I was learning and growing.

So, as my readers, I hope you don’t mind if I broaden the topics that you will find here at the new runningtoturquoisecafe.com. I chose this name for several reasons. Firstly, coffeeandturquoise.com was already taken by a lovely artist who just so happens to have a brilliant name for her website. Secondly, I wanted to put running in the title. Thirdly, with Turquoise Cafe in the name, I wanted to give it the feel of a lovely little escape away from daily life. A place where you can read and find encouragement, education, and hopefully laugh a little, too.

The picture in my mind is of an exhausted runner finishing his run and stumbling upon a cute little cafe with turquoise-framed windows and a turquoise door. I can see him running through cold rain, and as he opens the door and hears the little gold bell above his head ring, he is greeted with friendly smiles and the delicious aromas of espresso and warm muffins. That is what I want this to be for you. I hope that no matter what kind of day you are having, I can brighten it just a little bit by using my love of writing to lighten your burden. So grab your coffee and pull up a chair. I hope you enjoy your experience at Turquoise Cafe.

My First Marathon: March 15, 2015

March 15, 2015 was an epic day in my life as a runner. I joined less than .5 percent of the population and became a marathoner. After 18 weeks of training, working through a long road of recovery from an IT Band injury, having to take four weeks off from running because of said IT Band injury, three weeks of painful Physical Therapy, lots of tears, icing my hip and epsom salt baths, I had made it to marathon day! God had been so good and faithful to me, as He always is. I hadn’t really been too nervous even up to the morning of the race when I woke up at 4 am to get ready to be at the American Tobacco Trail by 5:30 that morning. My sweet and supportive husband and parents were still encouraging me and doing anything and everything they could to help me on race morning, just as they had been doing during the 18 weeks leading up to that. After getting ready and gathering all my race day essentials, I made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and grabbed a water bottle and we drove to the ATT.
Everything was a little overwhelming at first. There were runners and spectators everywhere, it was still dark outside and all the runners in shorts and tanks looked like they were freezing. My very smart mother had packed big blankets so she and I were wrapped in them for the next hour and a half until the race started at 7 am. We wandered around under the huge tent and spotted the coffee truck, so of course we headed straight for our morning joe. After ordering our coffee we spotted Sean Astin standing right there next to the coffee truck! I had read on the Tobacco Road Marathon’s Facebook page that he was in town and at the last minute had decided to run the half marathon that morning, but with 4,500 runners and 7,000 spectators and running a different course than him, I thought the chances of actually even spotting him would be pretty slim. My husband, Josh, asked if I could get a picture with him, and he ended up chatting with us for several minutes. He was so nice…very down to earth. I told him today was my first marathon and he stated that this was a really big day for me. He said, “You’re one of the fast ones aren’t ya? You look like you could go really fast.” I told him I hadn’t realized until the night before that he was such a runner and exclaimed my awe that he was running Boston this year. Since he had nine marathons under his belt, he told me that the number one advice that he could give me was to not go out too fast. He told me that in one of his first marathons his first mile was at a seven minute pace, and went on to explain how that had understandably been a mistake. He asked me what my plan was for splits for the day. He kept looking at me and then would look at Josh and say, “She is just so cute!” which of course made my day (as if it wasn’t already made with everything else going on!) After talking to him for several minutes and getting our picture with him, I told him we would let him go since he was running today, too, and thanked him for taking the time to talk to us.

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Next stop was the port-a-potties, around one hundred of them to be exact. All had very long lines behind them, which is always to be expected at races. That’s why I knew I needed to head to them about 45 minutes before the start of the race. We stood in line and met two fellow runners, one doing the half, the other, like me, doing her first full. The half-marathon runner was an older lady from Sao Paulo, Brazil, a seasoned marathoner with a beautiful Brazilian accent. I found out after the marathon that she had placed in her age group! The other first time marathoner was a college age runner who had come up from Florida with her dad. We enjoyed talking in line (about running, of course) and soon it was time to head to the start line!
The first runner that really stuck out to me was a firefighter in full gear who was planning on running the half, 45 pounds of gear heavier and all. He ran for fallen firefighter brothers and ended up finishing his race strong. I was all smiles and so excited until I looked at the time on my phone when it said 6:59, one minute until the start. That’s when the nerves got to me and I thought, “Wow, I am really doing this!” and I wondered if I should have tried to go to the bathroom again. I kissed Josh and they announced for us to start and off we went! I can’t even begin to explain the happiness that fills a runner’s heart when they are running in a pack of 4,500 runners! It’s amazing! Of course we all (at least all those around me) started out slow, at about a 12 minute pace. I felt great! The energy and excitement around me was unlike anything else I’d ever experienced. My next big memory was about mile five, when the elites had already done the loop at mile eight and were headed back doing a six minute mile and probably on the tenth mile already. I watched in amazement as they flew by me, and started yelling out to them, “Great job! Keep it up! You’re doing awesome!” I started telling the lady running beside me how amazed I was at how fast they were going, and she was just as awestruck as I was.
Eight miles into the race I spotted a cute couple running a little ways up ahead. They looked not too much older than me, maybe in their early thirties. As I got closer, I noticed that “Missy” (her name was on her shirt) was in front of her husband by a few feet and then I noticed that they had a stick between them. I thought, “That’s so cute. They are using that to make sure that they don’t get too far apart from each other.” Then I realized that they were holding a walking stick between them and that the man appeared to be blind. Since he looked young and fit and the proceeds from the race were benefitting the Wounded Warrior Project, I wondered if he may have been a soldier. As I passed them, I heard her say, “Great job. Keep it up.” That was the first of a few times where I got a little lump in my throat with emotion. Shortly after that, I passed Brittany, my friend from high school, who was also running. This was the first of several times that I saw her, and every time we gave each other a smile and a little word of encouragement to keep going.
Around mile ten I started to see people with matching yellow and red race shirts with pictures of fallen or wounded soldiers pinned to their backs. One I specifically remember, read, “22 too many. 22 soldier suicides a day.” This is the second time that I remember getting a little choked up. I saw other people, too, that didn’t seem to be a part of this team necessarily, with soldiers pictures strapped to their Camelbaks. These were all little reminders to keep pushing forward, to remember who I was running for, the Wounded Warriors and their families, who were in so much more pain than I was throughout this marathon.
At the halfway point I decided to stop at a port-a-potty. I had been taking a one minute walk break per mile, so I decided to use my bathroom break in place of my walk break for that mile. I sprinted out of that port-a-potty, thinking that I needed to make up for lost time. I remember hearing a man yell as I went by, “Wow! Look at her go!” and I looked down at my watch to see that I was running an eight minute mile. I told myself I had to slow down ASAP. I needed to reserve my energy. Not too long after this, when I had brought myself back to a comfortable pace, I found myself in a little pack of runners. The man next to me looked down at his watch and said, “We’re over halfway there!” and I said, “Yep! We got this!” One of the many times that I enjoyed the encouragement of those around me.
The day before the race I had volunteered for a 5K where I saw Dawn, my running inspiration and hero through my injury. Every time I had almost given up hope of being able to run this marathon, she would write me some sweet little note of encouragement or exactly what I needed to hear (even if it wasn’t always easy to hear), that would lift my spirits. A nine time marathoner (and a fast one at that), she was my angel as far as helping me recover from injury without ever physically seeing me, since we were writing Facebook messages from Delaware to South Carolina, and vice versa. Anyway, after the 5K (which she won by the way), she came up to me and said, “Just remember, tomorrow there are going to be times that it is going to suck, but just remember that it will pass.” I was so glad she told me this, because I knew I would use that as one of my mantras in the marathon.
Around mile 17, I was still on a runners high, just enjoying the day, enjoying the run, enjoying the commeraderie from the runners all around me, all pushing through and working together to cheer each other on to the next mile marker. At about 17.5, I started to see what Dawn was telling me the day before, how this was probably going to start getting progressiviely harder in the next couple of miles. I started to feel a little pain in my ankles and feet, and told myself this was the point where it had to be mind over matter. I continued to smile, though, as I had been doing throughout the race, at the runners going by. I passed another friend, Charlotte, who was running the Tobacco Road Marathon for the second time, and she yelled out, “Megan!” and gave me a huge smile. I was so happy to see someone that I knew, so I yelled back, “Hey!” and gave her just as big of a smile in return.
I had started out with a twelve minute mile through miles one to five, eleven minutes per mile for miles six and seven, and ten to eleven minute miles, depending on how I felt, from miles eight to eighteen, with one minute walk breaks per mile. From mile nineteen on, my plan had been to pick up the pace depending on how I felt and to shorten the walk breaks to thirty seconds per mile. I fluctuated between a nine minute mile and an eleven minute mile from nineteen to the finish. I never really felt like I hit a wall, per se, because there was no specific time that I thought, “Oh no, suddenly, I don’t know if I can do this anymore.” I do remember thinking at mile twenty-one that this was going to be really, really tough from here on out, but also thinking that at this point I only had five more miles to go, so I could push through! At mile twenty-two I passed two men who I had passed earlier and they said, “And she’s still smiling!” The pain in my ankles and feet had gotten worse and I was really just feeling weak all over. I was back to a twelve minute mile but I was able to manage thirty second walk breaks like I had planned to do near the finish. At mile twenty-three I asked myself if I would do this again, and I came to the conclusion that I would. During mile twenty-four, a volunteer lady gave me a cup of water and exclaimed, “And you still look beautiful!” And I thought, “I do!?” Although, I do remember passing people earlier and thinking, “These people look like they are dying, and I don’t feel like I’m dying yet. I wonder if I look like that but don’t feel it?”
The first and last two and a half miles were not on the American Tobacco Trail. They were on the roads around the ATT. This was both a blessing and a curse at the end because my first thought when I got off the trail and back to the side of the road was, “You’re almost there! You can do this!” About a mile later I felt like I’d never get to the finish. I remembered the sweet Brazilian marathoner from the port-a-potty line earlier that morning telling me that, “The last two miles are always the longest.” I tried to tell myself things like, “This is just like a nice and easy training run on the side of the road” and “In about ten to twenty minutes, I’m going to be a marathoner!” There was nothing easy about the last two miles. Nothing. But I kept pushing because I had come so far there was no way I could’ve quit! My goal had been under five hours and I looked down at my watch eight minutes from the finish line and realized that I was still a mile away and there was not a chance with my jello-y legs that I was going to finish with an eight minute mile. I told myself not to look at my watch again and just get to that finish line. The last two tenths were the hardest physically but the sweetest emotionally. I started to feel like I couldn’t breathe simply because I was getting so choked up. I really thought I was going to cry tears of joy, and I’m surprised that I didn’t. I spotted Dawn right as she spotted me and she gave the biggest smile and waved her hands so big to tell me to keep moving forward. Right as I saw her my left leg started cramping up, and I thought, “No! This can’t be happening right now!” I yelled to her, “My leg’s cramping up!” and I don’t even know what she was saying but I knew she was telling me to keep moving. Right after that I saw my dad and my husband, but my leg was hurting so bad from the cramp in it that I had to take my eyes off of them and set them on the massive American flag flying above the finish line. I kept my focus on it with gritted teeth and kept going. Right after the finish line I saw my Aunt Donna and my mom, snapping pictures for all she was worth with her brand new camera. I crossed the finish line and Donna hugged me saying, “You did it!” A girl stopped me and put a huge medal around my neck. I couldn’t believe that it was over! I was a marathoner! Nothing will ever match the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that I had in that moment. It was unbelievable! Soon mom, dad, Josh, and Dawn had joined Donna and I and we were all smiling and hugging. They were all telling me that I had done a great job. Josh looked at me and put his arms out to embrace me and said, “Baby. You did it. I’m so proud of you,” as he lifted me up in the air in his arms and gave my disgustingly sweaty self a huge kiss. It was picture perfect. My legs and feet were so sore and my body had never felt this taxed, but I was so incredibly happy. I was a marathoner!
After all the hugs and smiles and congratulations and pictures, Dawn told me to keep moving. I needed to walk and I needed to get food in my body as soon as possible. I told her I was so glad she was there because I wouldn’t have even thought about those things. I was just so happy that I had been able to finish, and relatively close to my goal time of five hours (my time was 5:03), that I wasn’t thinking about anything else. They wrapped the “runner’s cape” around me and we started walking toward the food tent. I had been so hungry that I could hear my stomach growling through most of the race from mile two to the finish line, but as soon as I crossed, the last thing I wanted to do was eat. We went to a Papa John’s food truck and I got two slices of cheese pizza, but after eating only half a slice, I thought I was going to puke if I ate anymore. I took a big swig of water to wash the little bit of pizza down that I had managed to eat, and then Dawn asked if I wanted some chocolate milk. Now that sounded like just what I needed, so after grabbing a bottle from the chocolate milk booth, I had downed it pretty quickly. After saying goodbye to Dawn and Donna, we started heading back to the car and we passed my Floridian friend from that morning. She had finished her first marathon in 4:36, so I was so proud of her! I love how quickly you can become friends with other runners because of what you push yourself through together.
I think that is what I love most about the running community. The bond that we all have, no matter how fast or slow. We encourage each other to finish no matter what. I remember during the marathon seeing people stop to ask friends if they needed to stretch out as they were obviously in pain. I saw a girl crying and walking at mile 21, but her friend was right beside her with her arm around her. She wouldn’t leave her side.
In many ways, running has taught me so much about myself in every other area of life. I remember Dawn saying right after I crossed the finish line, “You learned a lot about yourself out there today.” In many ways, I did. I feel like I can do and accomplish so many other things in life because I am a runner. Running gives me confidence to keep on pushing when the going gets tough, no matter what the situation. Running isn’t about competing with the other runners. It’s about pushing yourself to go farther and faster than you’ve ever gone before.

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