This past February, I ran my first half-marathon. I know to avid runners that might be a morning warm-up but for the rest of us, 13.1 miles sounds outrageous! It’s been five months and I haven’t ran one bit since then and often mumble to my husband, “I can’t believe I ran 13.1 miles.” Yes, I throw in the “point one” because it matters, especially when you feel like there’s nothing left.
Before finding myself committed to the half-marathon, the furthest I had run was a 5k. I could count on one hand, possibly one finger, the times that I had jogged those entire 3 miles. So when I found myself staring at the Hand to Hold Facebook post, asking for friends to join their team for the Austin Marathon, I hesitated. I saw that aside from the actual full marathon there was the option for a 5k (totally within my safe zone) and then there was also a half-marathon option. My heart swelled with determination as my stomach turned over in anticipated regret. I absolutely knew I had to do the half-marathon. You see, this was so much deeper than just bragging rights.
Hand to Hold is an Austin-based organization that supports NICU families, through NICU stays, the loss of a child, and life after. Having experienced all of the above, they are so dear to my heart. This marathon was being held 2/17/19, exactly six years and one week after my sweet babies, Nicholas and Sophia, came into this world too early. My eyes teared up as I read the date because I knew this was my victory run. It was me showing up to do the seemingly impossible after having experienced the seemingly impossible… finding peace within the sorrow of losing Nicholas, standing on God’s Word for Sophia to breathe. To eat. To be seizure-free. To live.
I invited my hubs , my brother-in-law, and mom to take on this mountain with me. They politely opted for the 5k. Later I would come to find out that the end of the Austin marathon is not only symbolically a mountain. It literally feels like one.
With a little less than 3 months to prepare, I quickly found a training plan. The plan went great some days, and not so great others. My original goal was to jog the whole way but as the weeks passed with me getting more and more behind on my training schedule, my goal turned to just making it to the end before they cleaned up for the day.
About three weeks out, I made it up to 8 consecutive miles. I was ecstatic despite not being able to feel my legs. I truly felt like I had this in the bag. I mean, what’s 5 more miles? Ha! Unfortunately a family member’s health issues soon required my free time and I completely quit training. Completely.
Feeling disappointed in my lack of training, I convinced myself that it didn’t matter how I got there, I just needed to make it to the finish line. The day before the race, we packed up and checked into our nearby hotel. I was ready for a good night’s rest.
Well, that didn’t quite go as planned either. Some sniffles from Sophia soon turned into deep hacking coughs. Each hour, I got up to oil her chest and pray healing over her body. When the 5AM alarm went off, I felt defeated. “God, I’m exhausted. I couldn’t even walk a mile right now.” He urged me to “just show up.” My mother agreed to stay back in the room with Sophia, while my hubby and brother-in-law saw me off to my start line.
As Audible read “Birthing the Miraculous” in my earphones, I watched a glorious sunrise manifest. Gratitude overwhelmed me. “This is it, God. This is what showing up and giving it to You is.” I glanced at my watch hear and there, checking to see how much further, but mostly my attention was taken by the beautiful healing miracles that were being read to me. My eyes swelled with tears numerous times, but I quickly found that I could either jog or cry, but not both effectively. I raised my hands to God hear and there, not paying much attention to those around me. Although, there were several areas where bystanders holding signs poured so much encouragement into my heart. People handing out water and snacks, cheering runners along… truly an outpouring of God’s love.
8 miles. My body seemed to remember it had done this once before but seemed confused on anything after that. Intense pain started impairing my stride. I couldn’t unflex my feet at some points, feeling my calves wanting to lock up. “Uh-oh,” I thought, “I still have a full 5k and some to do.” I did what I know to do. I started to speak to my legs. I commanded them in the name of Jesus to work the way they were supposed to. I told them that they would not lock up and get me to that finish line. I did this on and off for miles, literally not knowing how many more strides I could go jogging. You might think that’s crazy. That’s fine. Can I tell you what crazy faith does?
I made it to that finish line. I jogged the whole way too, making it in 2 hours and 32 minutes. My “training” miles were around 12 to 13 minute miles, which phased me absolutely zero since I wasn’t going for time. My half-marathon miles averaged 11:36/mile. My brother-in-law said as they were tracking me on the app, he realized my pace just kept improving. How is that even possible? The more I was listening to these miracles on my audio book, the more it literally fueled me. You still might be missing the point…
Grace got me to that finish line. That’s what gets us to every finish line. God’s grace. You can say, “Well, you must’ve been somewhat prepared…” or so many other dismissive excuses. I’m telling you what I felt in my body that day. What my heart experienced. It was God saying “This is indeed your victory race. And even when you fall short and didn’t do all that you felt you needed to do on your part, still show up. My grace carries you the rest of the way, victoriously.”
God’s grace got us through our NICU stay when I literally had nothing left. God’s grace carried us when our financial crisis seemed impossible and the bank would call monthly about our mortgage. God’s grace took over when I couldn’t stand to see Sophia have one more seizure, yet still had months to endure before they disappeared. God’s grace holds me when I mourn over my Nicholas yet still have a lifetime before I can see him again. God’s grace carries me now when I feel like I can’t wait another day to see my little girl walk, or talk. God’s grace.
It’s so full and fills in every part that we fall short, everything we feel is missing. It’s free and it’s yours and it’s mine. Although we’re so undeserving, God loves us SO much that when everything we can do in our power falls short, His grace gets us to the finish line victoriously. Better than we could have planned or imagined.
Whatever your struggling with, just ask our Heavenly Father to receive a new wash-over of His mighty grace and mercy. His love is powerful and potent. Don’t foolishly dismiss it when it’s so readily available.
I pray that whatever “finish line” is seeming impossible to reach in your life right now, that you recognize that it is NOT impossible with His grace. When your “legs” are giving out, that you will use Kingdom authority to speak God’s will over them. I release that over your situation right now. Receive that, in Jesus name. ❤️