Saturday, April 20, 2013

Getting It All Out: Grenada

April 2013

Where/How I Saw God in Grenada
This is basically my speech from Women's Retreat 2013..there was some ad-libbing of course, but here it is.


          As some of you know, I was part of the team that our church took to Grenada this last February.  Let me just start by saying that I had no idea where Grenada was; I’d never heard of it.  I learned that it was an island, in the Carribbean, and that there was some tourism, but not as much as expected, mainly cruises.  It really was never a question for me of whether I was going or not; I knew that I wanted to be on the trip, and in the past, I’ve lived the pattern of “If I want something, I’m going to make it happen.”  So, I stayed close to God from the beginning of the process: I wanted to make sure that it was actually Him and not me who wanted me on that trip. ..a couple weeks before the trip, Rachel Guillot asked me if I would be willing to share some of my experience with you all here, at Women’s Retreat, when I got back.  I told her, “Sure!” and now here I am.

Firstly, I need to say that I saw God while I was waiting for this trip.  This trip was a couple years in the making.   I started coming to Emmanuel during my sophomore year at Bethany College.  During my senior year, I heard about the church’s trip to Chile.  I wasn’t very familiar with the phrase “missions trip”; granted, I wasn’t very familiar with the church at all.  I remember asking Pastor Loren to pray with me specifically after one service, because I had a strong feeling about wanting to go on the trip.  I was at Bethany on a track and field scholarship, and was very unsure that my schedule would permit the trip.  While I was turning that little pamphlet over in my hands, the little trifold one they make up every year with the country and info, I just knew I wanted to go.  I saw that the church was getting ready to send a group to another country to help people; I was all about helping people! I was a pre-med student at Bethany because I wanted to be a doctor, to help people.  I didn’t know it then, but this was God speaking part of my purpose to my soul.  I’m fairly early on in my walk with God, and so to be able to go back and point out this moment in time when pieces of me were falling together, is pretty cool.  I didn’t end up going to Chile, but I did go to Bolivia the next year, 2011. 

When I look back at Bolivia, I see a different Gilda.  I see impatience, frustration, lack of confidence, a weak sense of direction, and a newborn level of faith and knowledge in God.  So I was a little nervous about Grenada.  I didn’t want history to repeat itself.

So for this specific trip, God spoke to me so much, so quietly, during the months of preparation.  I heard God quieting my soul; telling me to chill out; to sit back and just let myself be led by others.    I didn’t always know how to hear the voice of God before, I remember a year ago still thinking “I don’t know what it sounds like when God is speaking to me”.  But I actively heard God for the first time in my life, talking to me about this trip, telling me that he had everything in place; like for example, the missions team dinner theatre fundraiser.  That started out being a really frustrating thing; we couldn’t get a cast together, schedules were crazy; I tried my best to recruit actors and from what I saw, failed.  We had to change to a completely different play than what we were originally going to do…it was a headache, and I got frustrated.  But, God kept whispering, “I have it all under control”, and the more I let myself sink into those moments when God was talking to me, and just do my best to do my part in the whole thing, the more it all worked out.  The play ended up being a success, and I felt another big piece of the puzzle fall into place.

So once all the fundraisers were done and it was time to go, and everyone was getting all pumped up, I felt this sense of calm; I wasn’t in a hurry about catching planes.  I didn’t even check a suitcase! I made a point of packing only a carry-on suitcase, and my one other carry-on item, a tote bag.  I heard God telling me, “I will supply everything you need; you don’t need to pack everything you think you do.”  My natural personality is one that wants to be in control all the time..I’ve always struggled with uncertainty, and anxiety, and stress, and wanting to know what was next.  By placing myself at the feet of Jesus, I’ve learned to trust.

So, I traveled with this new sense of confidence and simplicity; God had put this trip on my heart; he had led me through the preparations for the trip; he had pulled the finances together for me, given me the grace to save whatever money I could to pay my way. 

The one thing I do share with people is that I wasn’t sure what my purpose was for this trip; in a sense, I felt a little empty, and almost a little disappointed.  For Bolivia, I had been so excited.  I knew I was going as a translator, on the medical team, that my role was crucial to the functioning of the team; this time, I was not needed to translate, since the language in Grenada is English (although, I will say, I picked up their dialect very quickly, and used it to our advantage while ministering to people).  So, as the trip got closer, I was still wondering, “What is my purpose on this trip? What am I going to do while I’m down there?” I kept having to fight off the stress and worry and the spirit of “you don’t have a place” by telling myself that God had it all worked out.

The second we hit the ground in Grenada, my heart started fluttering what seemed like a million miles a minute.  I anticipated the fresh island air, wondered how humid it would be, what it would feel like.  We had to descend the airplane by stairs and walk across the tarmac to the gate.  I heard Lola cry out a huge, joyful shout of exuberation behind me, something like “Whoooo-hooo!!!!”  We had made it. 

 I remember being nervous about the customs officers.  But they were really nice! I remember the question, “Mission trip? What’s your mission?” And I said, caught off guard, “Uhh….loving people!” I wasn’t sure how people would respond to a church group, so I thought I was keeping my answer vague.  It’s only in afterthought that I realize: God was using this customs officer to reveal to me my purpose for this trip, right here, right at the entrance to the country.  Once everyone had their luggage, we got into another line to step outside the airport.  I was right behind Pastor Loren, since I didn’t have to wait for luggage.  I was there when he met Reverend Jacque, our Grenadian leader.  He introduced us, and I knew that this was going to be a big week.  I then met Stacey and Reena, Reverend Jacque’s right hand girls, and they were my little sisters instantly.  Their smiles lit up the dark, breezy, humid night.  They loved it when my hair responded to the humidity and frizzed up to twice its normal size.  I was completely captivated. 

I felt God in the breeze, saw him in everyone’s faces, heard him in each new greeting.  I knew he wanted me here, right now, and I’ve never felt so much more comfortable and at peace in my life.  We had a van ride to our village and hotel, which was an hour long.  I couldn’t get enough of the sights, the island lights, the people walking through the residential areas, the cars, the breeze; I sat right by the window and remember just gazing up at the stars, feeling like I was a little kid at a carnival or museum, full of wonder, full of awe, for God’s creation and this remote little island he had sent me to.

Something that was on my heart as we began our work was how NICE everyone was.  I never heard anyone honk a horn rudely, never saw anyone flip a finger.  I didn’t hear anyone cuss, or yell at their neighbor.  Complete strangers welcomed us with smiles up to their houses. We handed them tracks, the little books that tell sneaky stories about Jesus, and we told them about our medical clinics that the rest of our teammates were holding.  We showed up empty-handed, well almost, except for the occasional balloon animal, and yet they were so eager and wiling to let us up and share some of their time.  This is possibly the biggest way I saw God: the people on the island had more time, more space, more opportunity to be open to life’s blessings, big and small, although on the island, small could mean big.  Their definitions of big don’t necessarily match our definitions of big.  Time, I’ve learned is such a precious commodity, and we get so wrapped up in going a million miles an hour here at home in the states, that just creating, or in our case, having no choice but to sit around and wait for all the relaxed Grenadians to tell us what to do—just creating that time let the Holy Spirit work.  This is where I saw God.  This is where I felt God.  I only feel God when I consciously take a deep breath and listen. 

To let the Spirit of God play, I have to be willing to hit “pause” every once in a while.  I have to be willing to step back and look.  Observe.  Look at the blue waters of the ocean in Grenada.  Or maybe it was watching the way, the grace with which our hosts served us our meals.  Every spoonful was not just a hurried morsel to be swallowed and digested, but a bit of love.  A bit of God.  The very love we were there to give them, they gave right back to us in the simplest of gestures. 

I saw God in his wonderful provision! It can be scary to go to a new country, to trust that a group of strangers you’ve never met is going to be responsible for your basic needs of food and water.  It took us a day or two to adjust to the food on the island.  But we all made it.  Maybe a couple pounds lighter, but we made it.  We had everything we needed and more, if only we were willing to step back, look, and say “Thank you, Lord.  Now, what is it you want me to do today?” 

As a team, we dedicated each day to the Lord and prayed over the work we were doing.  I saw God in how we all worked together in our different areas of work.  I felt God in the freedom, the letting go, the abandoning of our own ways, our own plans and agendas, and truly letting God govern each day.  Personally, I consciously said every day, “Put me where you want me God; I’m here to do your work; put me where you want me.”  I saw Pastor Loren and Pastor Andy mix concrete by hand, side by side and what came to mind was, “The greatest among you must be a servant.”  Seeing God in each and every individual on the team who was willing to make this their soul’s cry, really gave me peace about the whole trip and about this little piece of my life’s calling.  I was willing to make myself a servant.  And I heard God telling me, “That is all you need to do.”

I feel like I can’t say enough about the rest.  I felt like we were keeping the pace God intended….the first day, some of us were worried, trying to figure out what the schedule was, what we were gonna do that day.  Reverend Jacque told some of us to relax; I chimed in with “Yeah, we are on Island time!”  everyone thought that was so funny, but the awesome harvest that came out of restful productivity! 

These times of rest, the open evening times here and there, allowed me to really listen to God and let him heal my heart of any questions or concerns.  I didn’t do the same thing every day as far as work goes.  We had a medical team, a construction team, an evangelism team, and did some children’s ministry events.  I made myself open to wherever there was a need each day. I put aside the frustrations of “I really wanted to be on the construction site today,” or “I don’t feel like walking today,” and I obeyed.  I saw Jesus in the way I was able to obey and put myself aside.  Maybe my teammates were tired of walking too.  Maybe somebody else really wanted to finish sanding down a wall or painting that windowsill they started yesterday.  So, fine, I was able to say, “I’ll go elsewhere.”  It wasn’t easy, but feeling the Holy Spirit moving in me and telling me to just do it, kinda slapped me in the face a little.  So I went.

 I walked with Mike Strosnider as part of the evangelism team a lot and learned so much about talking to people about Jesus, asking if they had Jesus in their heart.  Complete strangers!  We had so many good conversations and great times of prayer with perfect strangers at bus stops, on the side of the road with busses and cars speeding by, in shady corners on the construction site.  I didn’t really get to do this in Bolivia, so I was very thankful for this experience, to learn how to let Jesus manifest himself in me.  bEing in a new country, with people who are part of a completely different culture, can be so scary.  But all the while, I felt Jesus saying, “It’s ok” and allowing me to go forth and shine for him.    

I saw God in the connections he allowed me to make with some of the locals.  There was one particular young man who I spent some time talking to on the construction site, and he ended up coming to church for our farewell service! Rev. Jacque sent me some pictures of him attending church a couple weeks later.  It was nice to know that God had allowed that connection to happen.  I know that it’s only because I made myself open and listened to every word God wanted me to say that I was able to put myself out there and connect with strangers.  I saw that they saw God in the way I was able to love.  I saw that it was me loving, because He loved us first. 

This trip overall has allowed me to see the personal growth I’ve made over the last 2 years….knowing its something you’re supposed to do; committing to go even though I didn’t know all the details, being able to say, “Jesus, you are Lord over my life, and if you want me to go, I’ll go.”

I had gotten into this routine in Salina: work, church, doing for others, playing with my cat, work, church.  Sometimes in the mundane, I forget to look for God.  This trip challenged me to see everything as grace, to see God everywhere.  I started taking a class facilitated by Debbie, covering the book, “One Thousand Gifts”, right before leaving for Grenada.  One of the first things she says in the video is “all is grace” and that resonated and has stuck with me ever since.  When I got back from the mission trip, I was able to see Salina as my “home mission field.”  There’s so much to do here, so many ways we can go out and make disciples of the nations here in Salina, it’s empowering! 

I see God in the way he laid this trip out for me from the beginning; I see him in everything since getting back.  I feel God in my relationships with others, the way I want to make more time for the little things that matter, the way I long for that slowed-down, fruitful pace that was in Grenada.

I feel God in the way that I feel God so much more, every day.  How a simple 8-day trip has shuffled and stirred my normal ways to the point where I desire to change something, I desire to have more of a discipline to seek God out and listen.  And it is in this quiet time of listening that I get to hear the instructions for my every day little adventures, and perhaps the next big one to come.   But these little adventures, these are the ones I don’t want to miss out on; and these are the ones I feel compelled to encourage you to embrace as well.  I am drawn to Jesus because He loves me, and when I look around and see the thousands of ways in which he loves me, I feel encouraged.  It doesn’t have to be a missions trip across an ocean to make you feel drawn to Jesus.  He is right here.  And he is waiting.

Puzzle Pieces

     I know that sometimes I get tired.  Sometimes, I really want a couple of hours to just be myself.  I really, really sometimes want to just sit on Pinterest and browse absentmindedly.  My job is awesome and fruitful, but tiring...

          So why do I continue to do it?  I do it because I know it needs to be done.  I do it because I know this is where I have been placed for the time being; because I trust that each moment of each one of my days is tiny little puzzle piece falling into place. 

          I’ve heard this song on the radio; I have no idea what it’s called, but some of the lyrics go like this:

          “One day, I’ll stand before You, and look back on the life I’ve lived; I can’t wait to enjoy the view and see how all the pieces fit.”

          I know that all the pieces do not make sense right now.  I've spent lots of my life turning the same piece over and over again, trying to fit it in every which way, and each time tossing it back into the pile, saying, “Nope, that’s not it.” 

          It’s comforting to know that one day, it will all make sense.  For me, it’s comforting to know that there is One who already knows how it will all work out.  That’s not to say I don’t feel a little jealous sometimes, that I get to muddle through and try to make sense of it all, while someone’s just looking on, saying, “No, no, you’re going the wrong way…your basket’s the other way!” like a coach on the sidelines of a little kid basketball team. 

          But I comfort myself in knowing that this coach is providing me with the tools I need to make myself better.  The people, activities, everything that surrounds and fills me in this life is all part of my toolbox.  And, even on my most stubborn days where I don’t feel the need to get better, the tools are still there to get me through the game! So, either way, Coach knows best, and is on my side no matter what.  And that has to be a win-win situation.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Salina Journal Article: Grenada

I was asked to write an "overview" of our Grenada mission trip for the Salina Journal.  Here is what I submitted:
  "Over 500 people received free medical care on the little island of Grenada during the last week of February.  The occasional bag of fresh mangoes was presented to the team in humble appreciation from locals who had received care or medicine.  The team consisted of one physician and a medical student, along with three nurses.  Even the honor of being featured on a segment of the local news was not enough to distract the team from their purpose, or from the other 30 individuals who traveled alongside them. 

            Salina’s own Emmanuel Foursquare Gospel Church sent a team of 35 individuals, ranging in age from 22 years to 71, down to Grenada, an island of the West Indies in the Caribbean, to serve, love, and minister to the local people.  This was the 18th year that Emmanuel has sent a team to a different country. 

            Over the course of 6 days, the team covered dozens of miles on foot to meet the locals and invite them to the free medical clinics.  They spent their days in the sun learning how to mix concrete and mortar by hand on a construction site, alongside the local construction workers.  Their mission? To completely paint an entire concrete building, as well as to construct a retaining wall to border the grounds. 

The task seemed daunting on Day One, but the team quickly proved that by dividing and conquering, many of the little details could be taken care of.  Power tools were not a luxury the team had available to them; rather, individuals used pieces of cinderblock to sand down the concrete wall before painting, and climbed a 20-foot tall wooden ladder in order to reach the highest corners of the church walls.  Several individuals took turns pouring buckets of water into the sand/concrete mixture while 3 to 4 individuals used singular shovels to create the sticky mixture that would be the foundation for the wall, and hold the cinderblocks together.  At the end of the week, the entire church was painted, inside and out, including the high ceilings, and the retaining wall was off to a remarkable start.

Many individuals on the team served double-duty, assisting with the Children’s Fun Day on Saturday morning, making balloon animals, painting faces, telling stories, and playing games.  The evangelism team was able to reach dozens of people and talk to them about the reason for the team’s visit to the island: the Heavenly command to go, love, and serve. 

The team would like to thank everyone in the community who helped make this trip possible by participating in the 5k Before Christmas Run, buying their World’s Finest chocolate bars, and attending their comedy dinner theatre performance.  "


Today I got to see my friend at rest. 

This lady is never at rest, at least not that any of us ever see.  She spends her days thinking up what she can do to help others, how she can meet another need.  She’s been referred to as a “miracle worker” in our community.  She shares with me that she is not a miracle worker, but knows who is, and has amazing friends.

I feel blessed to be counted as one of those friends.  In these days, when I’ve been focusing more than ever on the moment at hand, and taking deep breaths, and just enjoying, one of the things I’ve discovered is that I am counted a friend to so many people.  It sounds basic, but in the now-normal hurry and hustle of life, this little tidbit is one I have missed all too often.  This ignorance has led to years of moments filled with worry and anxiety, and mistrust and envy of other people.

It is only when we stop and breathe deep, that we give ourselves the chance to see everything that’s already around us.  For me, lately, this has taken the form of seeing my friends, knowing they love me for who I am, and appreciating their companionship.

           With rest, comes the opportunity to look at someone in the face and truly paint a picture in our hearts of who they are.  My friend today, for example, looked so serene and beautiful while she just sat on my couch and shared some stories with me from the last couple weeks. 

I never get the chance to just sit on my floor and listen to a friend talk.  And when I stop and rest, I realize that it is not that I am not getting the chance; it’s actually that I’m not giving myself the chance. 

This week, I want to make a conscious effort to give myself more chances for breathing, more chances for rest.  After all, “Life is not an emergency.” (Voskamp)

Christmas Lights

            It was the closest thing to a family tradition we had.

I have this memory, a memory of togetherness: It wasn’t every year since I was born or anything, but it was consecutive for about 4 years there; mostly 2nd through 6th grade (ish), I think.  Dad tried hard to keep us happy, and often we didn’t notice.  Every year around Christmastime, when Yuma began to light up around dark with strings of bright bulbs and tall trees, we went to two specific neighborhoods to look at the lights. 

The first was “Candy Cane Lane”.  It used to be in the newspaper for being the largest display in Yuma.  We always drove the family car really slowly around the block and looked at the Santas and snowmen and reindeer.  Usually my sister and I would find something to argue about in the car.  We rarely got along during our childhood.

The Klein Electric Company had a spectacular display each year for Christmas.  Their driveway is “U” shaped, and cars would line up around the block to go through.  Such a simple activity, yet so looked forward to.  Usually, the Kleins had a pile of “snow” for the kids to run and climb in.  I don’t think our parents ever let us do that.  Mexicans don’t do cold. 

For a few years there, Dad really involved my sister and myself in the Christmas-tree shopping.  Once, I wrote down “Noble Fir” on December 1st of my calendar for the next year, so we would remember what kind of tree we bought and we would be prepared.  Dad also screwed these hooks into the perimeter of the roof so that we could easily hang lights up every year.  I think the last time we hung Christmas lights was 2001.  I remember getting picked up for my winter formal in 2002 and not having any lights up.  Dad died in 2005.  My first Christmas home from college, 2006, we had a Christmas tree for the first time in 4 years. 

Christmas lost its glow for my family slowly over the period of several years.  Maybe it never really was what it was supposed to be.  We have pictures from when I was really little, of us opening presents and sitting on Santa’s lap.  It’s like my parents tried for a few years, but then things got too hard, and so we became a dysfunctional group of people who lived under the same roof. 

Even when I was that little kid in the backseat of the car, going through the Christmas light display, I wasn’t in the present moment.  There were always questions in my head, always thoughts rolling around, plans being made.  Or maybe they were wishes. 

Becoming an Athlete

Something I’ve really been thinking about lately is my desire to assistant coach middle school throws.  So tonight, while scrolling through my list of “blog topics” I want to write about, my eye rested a little longer than normal on the one about my athletic history.  I thought I could try my hand at writing out the story of how this pudgy, big-boned Mexican became an athlete.

Let me start by saying that I was never, ever in a club sport, little league, or after-school dance, soccer, basketball, or anything else-team.  My reasoning behind this is that my parents were both from Mexico; new to the county, they didn’t know what Little League was.  My parents both grew up on ranches.  They lived simple lives in rural, deep-down, nitty-gritty Mexico, and didn’t have any luxuries, so club sports were unheard of.  Thus, my sister and I never experienced the stereotypical soccer mom, after-school rush. 

Most of my youth, I spent rather inactive.  The most exercise I got was walking a lap at Smucker Park in Yuma, Arizona with my mom every once in a while.  I remember in 5th grade, my dad started taking my sister and I out in the mornings before school with the dogs, in an effort to speed up our pre-adolescence metabolisms that were contributing to our expanding waistlines.

I was always big.  I was wearing training bras in second grade.  I was always, ALWAYS, top row, center in every class picture.  I was 5’4” and weighed 134 pounds in 4th grade, and 5’6 ½” and weighed 186 pounds at the beginning of sixth grade.  I remember being embarrassed to eat in front of my peers, beginning in 5th and 6th grade, and continuing on through 9th grade. 

But, in the spring of 6th grade, spring of 2000, something happened.  Twice a week, during PE class, we completed a warm-up lap around the playground, probably totaling about 300 meters or so.  I think most everyone tried their hand at jogging this lap, but nobody ever stuck with it.  It became routine that my friend Cecilia and I were the only two people in the entire class jogging that lap.  We jogged the whole way around, and would wait 5 to 10 minutes before everyone else was done.  I remember I started stretching out that semester, after I hit puberty.  And I kept jogging those laps.  I think I felt this burning desire to prove myself to my peers.  I was tired of them laughing at me.  I wanted to be like everyone else, and like no one else at the same time.  I wanted to do more.  I wanted to be better than everyone walking the lap. 

What I didn’t know was that this simple act was the beginning of my athletic career. 

I remember the school formed a softball team that spring, and I kind of wanted to participate, but I didn’t.  I didn’t know anything about softball, I was too nervous to learn more or to ask my parents, plus you had to buy a whole bunch of equipment I had no idea about.  So I didn’t play.

That fall, I tried out for my first athletic team: 7th grade basketball.  I remember spending my fall break in the gym, running, sweating, learning, trying.  I still remember my first free throw.  It was, as we say nowadays, an epic fail.  It sort of drifted limply out of my hand and didn’t even make it halfway to the basket.  I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.  The only thing I understood was running up and down the court.  Running the sprints was my favorite part of tryouts. 

I did not make the team.  I was angry.  I was hurt.  I was upset that my fall break had gone to waste.  So what did I do? I marched back into the gym and looked at the tryout list for the rest of the school year.  I found the dates for the track team.  I said, “Fine; I will do track.  They don’t cut anyone from the track team.”

That was, unknowingly, the most pivotal decision of my life up to that point!  I went out for the track team that spring and threw the shot put for the first time (in Arizona, junior high doesn’t throw discus).  I liked it.  I tried high jump.  I failed at it.  I tried running some 800’s and some 400’s.  Something interesting about my city was that there were weight classes for junior high.  They were called “A’s, B’s, C’s, and D’s”.  The A’s were the big girls; the D’s were the tiny girls.  I was an “A”, and I won a few 400m runs here and there.

I had now entered the world of the athlete, in which, at least in junior high, if you were good at one sport, you must be good at them all.  I proceeded to try out for and make the soccer team and volleyball team that 7th grade year.  I didn’t really like volleyball, but felt pressure to get better at it.  I remember the coach made me nervous.  I ended up taking myself off the team because I got a “D” in algebra one quarter.  I have never quit anything since.

Just before the school year ended, we had a really cool substitute in our English class.  Her name was Mrs. Fahl, and she told us stories of her basketball playing days, showed us her college rings, and inspired us to be better.  She was then hired on as a PE teacher, and came to me and encouraged me to sign up for Summer League basketball.  I told her I had not made the team, but she told me she would work with me and I could get better.  I asked permission from my dad and signed up. 

That summer, I fell in love with basketball, with hard work, with running up and down the court, and with being on a team.  We won one game that summer, but Coach Fahl worked with me on hookshots, layups, and free throws until I could at least fake confidence in myself.  She also inspired me to use my size on the court, and planted the “defense seed” in my brain.  It was very rare that anyone ever got around me on the court. 

By this time, I had slimmed down to about 170 pounds.  I had started to develop my muscles, and was gaining confidence.  I will never forget that I never, ever attempted softball.  It was always the first sports season of the year in junior high, and sometimes I think if I had played in 6th grade, I could have been a year-round athlete in junior high.  But, I waited patiently for basketball season. 

This time when I tried out, I made the team.  Coach Fahl was the new 8th grade girls’ coach.  Coach Foote, the 7th grade coach, couldn’t believe how much I had improved.  After basketball season, I repeated my pattern of the year before: track, soccer, and volleyball, this time, completing my volleyball season.

I also participated in Summer League basketball again. 

During the last semester of junior high, Cecilia, my friend from 6th grade that I ran laps with, said she was running “cross-country” in high school, and that I should too.   By this time, I had already decided that I wanted to attend the private Catholic high school in town, had applied, and been accepted.  I asked Cecilia to explain what cross-country was, and she said it was “running miles”.  I said I would do it.

So that summer, I ran my first 30 minute run with Coach Farr.  When he said, “We just ran about 3 miles”, I didn’t even really know what that meant.  But it was the beginning of a beautiful high school athletic career. 

For four years, I ran cross-country in the fall, played basketball in the winter, and did track in the spring.  My main event was the shot put, and I started learning the discus as a freshman.  Occasionally, Coach Farr would throw me in the 2-mile run at track meets, if he needed someone extra to knock somebody else’s girls out of the running.  He would only ever do this when it didn’t interfere with my throwing events. 

I also took “girls’ PE for athletes” my sophomore, junior, and senior years as an elective.  Most of my peers asked, “Didn’t you already take PE? Why are you doing it again?” My answer? “I have to do it for track.”

I knew inside my heart that being strong and being healthy was not just a fad for me.  I knew that what most people considered a workout, I laughed at.  I knew that I lived for running 5 miles at a time.  I knew that the road trips we had to take to compete for all three of my sports were where I found my peace.  Because we were the private school, we didn’t have a league in town, so we had to travel a minimum of 2 hours for every competition, during cross-country and track seasons.

It didn’t take long to catch on that I was serious about my sports.  So serious in fact, that it left me little time to socialize with people who weren’t on my teams.  I consider this a blessing now because it kept me too busy to make some of the really awful and dangerous choices that most of my peers were making (drinking, having sex, etc).  I was focused: school and sports. 

My senior year of high school set the direction of the rest of my life.  I was recruited to be on the track team and run cross-country at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas.  I visited the campus with my mom, signed my letter of intent, and put down my enrollment fee all in one visit, over my spring break.  In the fall of 2006, I moved to college and began the next phase of my athletic career.    

While there are many fond, specific memories I have of each sport I have participated in over the years, I believe those are for another time.  For now, I leave you with the thought that something can indeed come from nothing.  For me, discovering my athletic abilities helped me piece together my future, and continues to inspire me to this day. 

More to come on my collegiate career.