It's 7:00 a.m. on a Friday morning - our Family Day.

Kev's been gone since 4:30 hunting, the three boys had a sleepover in the basement last night and are all still crashed out cold, since none of them got to bed until 10:00.  We have Thursday night church now, with a music practice afterwards, and by the time we all get home and into bed it is LATE for my Littles.  London is happily playing in her bed with snacks and juice.  And the house is STILL.

And me --  I decided today to sleep in just a bit, and to bring my coffee back to bed with me for an hour.  Outside is waking up slowly, inside is still quiet and cozy.  And instead of hitting the ground running - literally and figuratively - like I normally do, it just felt right to slow and BE this morning. My body and my brain feel pampered.  An extra hour of sleep and coffee whilst tucked under blankets - with a house still silent at this hour of the day feels decadent and glorious.  And it's just what the doctor ordered for this chilly, Fall morning.

It's the little things.

I ran my very first race a week ago Sunday.  Another check off my bucket list.  A friend from church and I have been running together for weeks.  I'm not even sure how it started, really.  She's kind of a new friend - an acquaintance from church meeting over the mutual love/hate of getting up early and getting it done.  She's a beast of an athlete who has run many races - and fast.  She knew I had a bucket list dream to run a marathon - or at least a half one day - and she convinced me to sign up for a Half that's right in our town.

So, somehow, this summer, - having never run more than 4 miles consecutively in my LIFE - I found myself mileage building with her, doing something that I never dreamed I could do, with a girl whom, at the beginning of summer, I barely knew...but who I can now say is a sweet, dear friend.  Hours spent running together will do that.  Miles of deep heart to hearts in between gasping bursts of breath...dream sharing...struggles sharing, and sweat dripping mornings of honest, raw, and real conversations.  Honestly....what a gift.  That's my most favorite take away from this whole entire adventure.

I still feel like I might rather birth a fifth child than do that again, but she's already dreaming of doing a full marathon one day, so who knows.  She's rather convincing.  And while "fun" is still too strong of a word to use for our race day, it really was quite an experience.  Our goal was to run it in under two hours, and we did it finishing third in our age group - 24th out of 81 overall - with an time of 1:52 and some change - and our average minute per mile being 8:46. While I totally feel like I held Holly back - especially the final mile when I was plodding and she was chomping to sprint - this, for me, was a personal best.

Having never run a single race before in my life, there was a lot to soak in.  On our runs, it's always been my job to pace us, since Holly likes to sprint out like a cheetah and stay at that pace until I'm begging for mercy.  But, I got so caught up in the adrenaline of it all - and all of the people who were all around us - I took us out of the gate at an 8 minute mile - instead of our normal 9 - and kept us there for the first few miles of the race, until the newness wore off, and I asked her why I felt like I was dying so early on in our run.  My bad. Our first few miles are always our slowest, and then we gradually get faster with each consecutive one.  This is how my body works best. We kind of did the opposite for the race, with our first six being several seconds faster than our last. Lesson learned.

I'm not entirely sure - still - how to work the water stations.  We didn't want to stop, obviously, so we just slowed down our pace to snag one as we ran by...but I am apparently not talented enough to swallow and run at the same time, because it took about four stations before I finally stopped drowning myself.  Graceful, I was not.

The course itself was a surprise to me when all was said and done.  The places where I thought I would struggle the most, were not the places where my body and brain did the rebelling.  It was the miles of flatness where you could see the end - but it was still too far away - that messed with my head.  Our final five minutes, I honestly felt like I was in transition labor, and Holly had to talk me off the cliff to dig in my heels and end with a kick.  I thought the race was over once we rounded a certain corner...but then it totally wasn't and we still had another quarter to half mile to that made me mad and totally discouraged me.  I was just about to ask her to slow it down a bit, and she knew it, so she got in my face and said:  "We have not come this far to back down now.  You will bust your butt until you cross that blue line, and then you can rest!"  Drill Sergeant.  And so, in my shining moment of glory, just after our feet crossed the line -- instead of throwing my arms around her in a celebratory hug of accomplishment, I looked at her, stated clearly:  "I hate you," and then daintily crashed in a heap onto the ground.  And THEN, I looked over and said:  "I don't hate you.  I didn't mean it.  I love you.  You know that, right?"

It was a beautiful moment.

Over and over in my head, every time we had to climb up a hill...or every time my brain would ask me why we had paid money for this torture...a verse would come to my mind like a mantra.  It was a verse put to music that I learned as a little girl, and a memory that I had forgotten for years.  "Even youths grow tired and weary.  And young men stumble and fall.  But, those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk, and not be faint.  Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength." (Isaiah 40:30,31)

What a verse for LIFE!
What a mantra for Mama's!
So many parallels to running and running and just...LIFE!
The more I do these things together, the more I see the marriage of the two.

Both are hard.  Both can get in your head,  Both require discipline.  Both require commitment.
Some days are smooth and you feel like you're right in the pocket.
And some days start out rough and just stay there the entire day.  (Behold, my recovery run).

I think both running and Life go a whole lot better when you have someone at your side - doing that hard, but rewarding thing right along with you.  When you have a cheering section who is on your side, and who is for you and not against you -  and who uses tough love on you in the moments that you need it.  Life was not meant to be lived alone...and I, for one, am not a fan of paying good money to run a race all by myself.  I can walk out my own front door and do that on my own time.  But, with a friend, it becomes an adventure!  It becomes this beautiful, messy picture of life walked out together. We encourage each other, we make the time go by faster, we talk each other out of our heads, we laugh at each other, and we share our hearts....all the while putting one foot in front of the foot in front of the foot in front of the other...when we maybe really don't want to.  And when we maybe feel like giving up.

That's life, man.
That's the messy beautiful.

I might be hooked....

Thank you, Holly.  You make me better.
"Each one helps his neighbor, and says to the other: 'Be strong!'" ~ Isaiah 41:6

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