Tag Archives: Perserverance

In the long run

This story did not happen to me.  It feels like it did though.  It happened to my sister.   She and I share an odd sense of humor, a strong will and a pitiful history where PE is concerned.  So my little sister had a goal.  (One I had too but didn’t actually achieve).  She wanted to finish running the mile in high school PE and not come in last in her class.   Totally reasonable goal.  One day, she gave it her all.  Ran like the wind.   Finished ahead of someone.   Looked up to heaven and closed her eyes to pray and to thank God, promptly tripped and fell flat on her face.   Sigh.

I must point out here that another thing my sister and I share is a willingness to self-deprecate in order to have new blog material.  She did in fact give me permission to throw her under the bus.

You know how in high school they try to talk you into buying an extremely overpriced coat so you can display your proudly earned letter?   I had a letter but frankly wasn’t interested in wearing it.  I’m not sure that Pep Band really qualifies, especially when you play the flute.  The flute is designed for a symphony not a marching band.  You can’t hear it over cheering football fans or a cadence from the drum line.  Don’t get me wrong.  I loved band.  I just didn’t want to hear about it from all the sports people.  I had a couple pins on this letter too…one for Honor Society and one for the Math team.  In college, my debate coach thought it was hilarious to tell people I was on the math team.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that debate fell in the same category as competitive math.

My sister signed up with me to do the Warrior Dash this fall.    Partly I think it was because she felt sorry for me because I came home from Rwanda with TB and she didn’t.  Partly I think it was because it’s fun to surprise people and do something out of character.  Partly I think because I’m the big sister and she’s used to sometimes doing what I tell her to.   At any rate, we’ve been running for about two months now.   We’re running at least once a week together just to stay accountable.  The rest of the time we’re begging others to keep us in line and have acquired a couple of good coaches who push us.  One of them is pregnant.  I find it difficult to believe that I have a really hard time keeping up with the pregnant person.   Sigh.   Our other coach just finished this year’s Portland marathon.  Starting running for the first time last spring and ran the whole thing.  She’s my hero.

We all spent all last week eating.   Decided yesterday we were ready for a “hard run”.   Three Miles.   Faster pace than normal.  Really Really big hill.   All three of us had to walk the last push of the hill.   It’s a big hill.  My friend said it felt like someone had ripped out her lungs.   Clearly we all need a bit more training.    Funny thing was when we finished the hill, the next bit was pretty nice.   My sister had her best run ever.

In 2004 I did the Portland Marathon.   I ran 1/4 of each mile and walked the other 3/4.   At mile 15 or so I was feeling great.   Mile 20 I was starting to get tired.   Mile 21 my IPOD battery gave out.   Mile 22 I was worried.   At mile 25 with only one mile to go I had nothing left.  I saw a little man shuffling ahead of me.   I told myself “I’m going to try to run by this gentleman, maybe if I can encourage him, I’ll be able to finish”.    So I ran in step with senior and said “You can do it, only one mile to go”.  He said “This is my fifth marathon.  I know I can do it.  You can do it too.  Don’t give up”.   Okay then.

I did in fact finish all 26.2 miles.   When I crossed the finish line, my mother burst into tears.   She said she had a picture of me running a race in life and crossing the finish line into heaven.

I really don’t like to exercise.  Not crazy about running.   I do however like that my pants fit.   I also like the extra energy when I’m faithful to run.   I really don’t like much of what constitutes balance and discipline in life.    Balancing my checking account, taking out the garbage, having those oh so hard conversations to iron out misunderstandings, saying sorry, getting out of bed even when the snooze button is calling me, devotions with my daughter, praying for friends, tackling the big hills.

Its easier to do anything with your sister at your side.  And I know that it’s all worth it in the long run.

 

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You want me to do what?

Like a lot of people, I have a love hate relationship with excercise.  Wait.  Maybe that’s just a hate relationship.

I think this started from the usual terror stories of elementary school days spending PE trying to avoid playing Dodge Ball and spending recess trying to avoid getting hit in the head with the tether ball.    My PE teacher was a rather large woman who may have at one time in her life been healthy but it was clearly before any of us had been born.   She also had a very creative approach to physical education.    One day, she lined us all up and started to roll a hulahoop down a line and told us to all hop through the moving hoop as it passed by.   I thought she was crazy.  Not a single kid could do it.  I think she had visions of turning us into a circus act.   The class bully shouted out that we’d try again when she showed us how.  She put away the hula hoop.

We moved in the middle of my 8th grade year.   First day at the new school I walked into PE and they were doing the final tests for the unit on gymnastics.  They had been spending the previous eight weeks learning about the various equipment and putting together routines.    The PE teacher made me take the test.   This was not a good introduction to other middle school students.   Really, if you had missed the instruction weeks and had to do a floor routine (no way was I getting on the balance beam or parallel bars) in front of people you just met what would you do?  Somersaults really don’t cut it.

When I turned thirty, I signed up to do the Portland Marathon.  This shocked everyone I know.   It shocked me.   I actually trained and I did in fact finish the 26.2 miles.  I walked, I ran, I shuffled but I finished.   I promptly quit running again.

So now, I’m turning 35 in two weeks and its about time to pull myself together again.   I’m very clearly a project person.  I have discovered the only time I get anything done is when I’m facing a deadline of some sort.  So I’m signed up for the Portland to Coast in August and the Warrior Dash in September.  That should do it. What I learned last time I trained was really the only thing you have to do to finish a race is just not quit.   This is probably true in all areas of life.   Even if it’s a love hate relationship.  Just don’t quit.

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A Lesson in Rwanda

If you have been following this blog at all you’ve probably picked up that our first choir performance last week was humiliating. Hilarious is retrospect but humiliating. We actually stopped in the middle of the songs. Yes, both songs. We didn’t even finish the second one and we slunk off the stage. What would you do if your CD quit and you didn’t know the words??

We have been working very hard all week long at choir practice and today we got to sing Amazing Grace / My Chains Are Gone and Blessed Be Your Name at Pastor Simon’s church. In comparison, we were fabulous. In reality, probably mediocre but we’ll take it. The congregation actually clapped and smiled and a few even waved. We left feeling quite relieved.

This afternoon we went to a concert being held at Pastor Simon’s church. They had invited singing groups from all the local churches to come together for an afternoon (3 1/2 hours) of singing. They were all incredible. At one point, the power went out just as the next singer in line was getting ready to start. He had planned on using power point, his electric guitar and his backup keyboard. He just shrugged, unplugged the guitar and used it without power. He proceeded to give a beautiful ballad about the love of God. He smiled, walked off.

And then the director looked in our direction. The only word I understood was “Muzunga” and then all 500 pairs of big brown eyes all looked at us expectantly. You have got to be kidding. We have to sing for ALL the local choirs….without power? No CD? Again? Pastor Simon will always be my hero because he said “No, the Americans can not sing without power”.

I am not positive but I think the entire room started praying for power. God hears the prayers of these people. About five minutes later, we’re back up at the front of the church belting out the lyrics to Amazing Grace. “My chains are gone…I’ve been set free.. My God, My Saviour has ransomed me. And like a flood, His mercy reigns, unending love, Amazing Grace”. This time…they cheered. They weren’t cheering for us. We’re still a bunch of mazungas who really are basically tone deaf. They were cheering for Christ and for the Freedom He Gives.

The lesson from Rwanda? When you don’t get the plan you wanted, keep singing.

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Graduation

Pastor Simon told us that today would be a special day, an important day. Every last Saturday of the month, the entire country of Rwanda shuts down their buses, their business and their markets. They spend the whole day helping local schools and charity programs. They call it community day. Today, Ndgenera Foundation was selected to be one of the programs that received help from the entire community.

It was also an important day because it was the graduation ceremony for the vocational school operated at Ndgenera. (Nice job Jodi and the entire Canada team, those classrooms are perfect.) The people who came for community work day stayed for the graduation ceremony.

Graduation took place in the same field where the kids play normally. Today, it was dressed up. The children had taken flowers and tied them to the banana tress that line the field, they had also draped flowers on string across the entrances to the clinic and the school.

Everyone who was anyone showed up. Everyone who thought maybe they could be someone showed up. Everyone who just wanted to watch the circus that came to town (that would be us) showed up. The graduates lined one side and the local people lined the other. The children sat silently watching on one end of the field. At the opposite end of the field were several large canopies and chairs set up for the government officials, local pastors and us.

The ceremony included a song all about the Americans who came to visit, several speeches from the government officials, and a traditional African dance. Those women are gorgeous and they can dance! The mechanics class did a demonstration of what they had learned. They dragged a huge motor out into the middle and set it on a couple of cement blocks. Each student was given a part to the motor and then as a class they spent about 10 minutes repairing the motor and actually started it up. I was floored. Why does it take shops in the US so long to fix your car? These kids had it done in ten minutes in the middle of a field.

Then the actual procession of students started. The principal had all their diplomas in his hands. The first two students came forward, were introduced and the local government officials gave them their diplomas and proceeded to gently head-butt them three times, one on each side, then one forehead to forehead. I thought, oh that must be a way of honoring these students, how nice. Then they handed the next diploma to Deb and gestured to the next student. That was when we all realized we’d be actually participating in the graduation. Way to go team, You all learned the head-butt in quick fashion.

Each of us hugged, cheered, shook hands and head-butted as these great students stood proud. Kids who once had no hope, had a degree. They have an opportunity to work and to help feed their families.

There were a couple of incredible stories. One girl travels three hours a day to go to school. She was given a sewing machine as an honor to her commitment to her education. One student who was learning to make jewelry is deaf and also does not speak. She was given a can of varnish and paint to begin her own business. One student was given his own set of mechanics tools. Another young man who used his construction class has already built his family a new house. He was given a roof today in honor of his dedication.

I was honored to watch and humbled to give the student who stood before me his diploma. These students had sacrificed, they had persevered, they had been given a chance out of poverty and they were standing before us. It was indeed a special day.

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